Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank S. Fujii Interview
Narrator: Frank S. Fujii
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Beth Kawahara (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 3 and 5, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ffrank-01

<Begin Segment 1>

LH: Densho interview with Frank Shobo Fujii on September 3, 1997. And this is in Seattle, Washington. My name is Larry Hashima and Beth Kawahara is also an interviewer.


LH: Well, thank you very much for speaking with us today, Mr. Fujii. We're gonna start off by talking a little bit about your parents. When did your father first come to the United States, and why?

FF: Well, at the turn of the century, I think. I don't know about why, but I think that he probably was really adventurous to do that coming from Japan. And I think, like I told you, he was one of those that, I felt, wanted to see what he could do over in this country. And I'm glad he did, 'cause otherwise I wouldn't be here. And as I told, told this story before, Dad went to naval school to, to get into naval school and he did fail. And I said, "Dad, that's one thing that I'm glad you did fail then, as otherwise I wouldn't, none of us would be here." There's nine of us in the family so I was really happy about that then.

LH: Okay, so your dad's adventurous spirit was probably one of the reasons he came out to the United States. So did he come immediately to Seattle or...?

FF: No, I think he went to Alaska first. And I think he worked in a -- I think it was a laundry, and then cannery, I think, and then he came back down to Seattle and started a confectionery. And then that confectionery wasn't making it, so he switched to a tavern, which actually did well.

LH: Okay. And what year was this that he switched to this tavern business?

FF: I think just about when I was born in 1930.

LH: Okay.

FF: And so I sort of got the fruit of the life, so to speak. Because once economically he was able to support nine kids, and I'm around, and to switch over, he was able to afford things that normally you couldn't do on the confectionery kind of place. You know, selling candies and goodies like that. But, so as much as none of us brothers are drinkers, but it was very successful. Fujii Tavern was very famous before the war.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LH: So your father first came to the United States in what year?

FF: Turn of the century, so I think maybe in the late 18... 'cause if he was -- he passed away in '66 at eighty-four. So he had to be turn of the century, or right before the turn of the century. He's probably one of the older Isseis that came.

LH: So how old was he when he first came over?

FF: Maybe in his -- I can't do the math -- but say he was in his late teens, I think.

LH: Late teens?

FF: And then my mother came later, of course. I don't think she was a picture bride, I think they knew each other somehow, some way. She was an educator. She went to teach a normal school in Osaka and then she got married and came over here. I don't know how Dad did it, but to have, to make a wife come over here, especially when she had the education and Dad didn't, so to speak. But it all worked out.

LH: So you're the youngest of nine children. So, how old are your brothers and sisters, in comparison to you?

FF: Well, we're all about two years apart. So from myself, being sixty-seven now and it goes on up to -- the two oldest are passed away. So right now June is eighty, so there's -- probably eighty-two, so you figure if I'm sixty-seven, that's what, 'bout fifteen years interval? Mom raised nine of us, I don't know how she did it, but she did.

LH: So how did that work with the family in terms of, your father was running the tavern and your mother was just at home raising the children?

FF: Yeah. Well, the oldest daughter being from Japan, too -- she was actually born in Japan 'cause when Mom went back to Japan, she had the child and brought her back here -- and she was a helper, so to speak. You know the old system of helping the parents raise the rest of us. And she was, she was the oldest, Rinko. She was the saint of the family in that she really helped Mother in cooking, washing... and even raising me. Because Mom didn't have that much time with nine of us, and I'm the baby and spoiled me, but I enjoyed that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LH: So did your brothers help out your father in running the tavern?

FF: Yeah, the oldest brother, Seibo, he helped out at the store. And then June, the other, second oldest, she helped out at the tavern and made it easier, of course, 'cause it's family kind of thing. Then Mom cooked the food in the back. It was a food concession right behind, well, right next to the tavern, I mean, it's in the back. But she just made chicken, things that go good with beer. And did real well and they were real famous chicken, Fujii's chicken then. I think it was a forerunner of Kentucky Fried. [Laughs]

LH: And so where was the tavern located in Seattle?

FF: Fourteenth and Yesler. It was a, it's still standing up, it's the old St. George building. I think that's where the Urban League is now. It was a place where people go. But not many Nikkei went there -- mostly the other minorities, the blacks, the whites, and a few Asians. 'Cause I knew the clientele, 'cause I always hung around there, but I didn't get to go in too often, because that's... they weren't too strict about that, but... I might go in and get my candy bar and potato chip but that's about all, and pop. But it was a nice locale, and it was a very Japanese-oriented district. Japanese drug store, Mutual Fish, and a grocery store, and butcher. It was all right there on Fourteenth and Yesler. Of course, it's not there anymore. But that was really a focal point. And I lived in sort of a tenement in the alley right across the street from the tavern.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LH: Frank Fujii interview, take two. Friday September 5th in Seattle, Washington. Again, Frank Fujii is the subject. Interviewers are Larry Hashima and Beth Kawahara. Frank, thank you again for coming back again for the second day.

FF: You're welcome.

LH: I guess we're gonna pick up a little bit from where we left off the other day talking a little bit about prewar Seattle. So again, you were talking a little bit, I think, about your father's business and the clientele and the neighborhood around there. Could you go ahead and describe what the, what the tavern was like and sort of how it fit into the rest of the neighborhood there?

FF: Well, there about the only -- well, there was two taverns in that area, actually we were the more famous one. [Laughs] But I think the main thing was Dad made a good living from it. And I think the familiarity of probably the Fujii in that area was probably more significant in that there was so many of us in the family. There was nine, and I think to me when we as Fujiis, you know, get to be known, the Fujii's Tavern is easily remembered and people frequent. Like I said, the ethnicity was not that many Nikkei people. And, but other than that, we... as I remember, my dad had a variety of the blacks, and whites, and Asians. But like I said, it was pretty well-balanced, which was nice. And to raise nine kids off of that, he had to do well. And I was real pleased that they did because being the baby of the family, I didn't have to suffer. Of course, they spoiled me, actually. Because I think that's when, when I was born in '30, right after that, Dad, Dad felt he was able to spend time with the kids, and be with the family, so to speak, and I was real pleased.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LH: So what was it like growing up in a family of nine at this time? How did the, you know...

FF: Well I liked it. I got a lot of attention. I mean, I think of all the children, I think when the parents are doing well I think there's a tendency to feel that everybody supports you, although I wasn't the most likable child because the rest of the, rest of the family felt I was real spoiled, but I didn't care. I knew I was real well-loved because Dad and Mom... I knew that they loved me and no matter what the brothers and sister would say, like, you know, "You were a mistake," and stuff. I felt hey, that's okay, I know Dad and Mom still loves me. And I think it could have been devastating if, if you let it take to you. And, but I think the security of it all, I felt pretty good that Mom and Dad really did love me. I was a, took pictures with Mom at the photography shop because she needed a prop to stand next to her and I was happy about that. Dad didn't like to take pictures. But, and Dad likes to take me to the movies. So I was real taken care of.

LH: So did your brothers and sisters help out in sort of raising you while your mother was...

FF: Well, I can... actually, I didn't have too many peers my age group. I used to look up to the older people; my brothers and sisters were good -- well, my brothers especially -- were good in athletics. And I used to follow the teams wherever I could walk to, or take a bus to, or rather, trolley to. And that part of it I really enjoyed where they were my idols, and I got to develop this inner interest that got me into athletics. And without them, I don't think I would have progressed as I did, and got interested in hoping to coach and teach and whatever.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LH: So what kind of relationship did you have with your, your parents then, if...

FF: Oh, I was real close to my folks. My mother always made sure I get the kind of food that I want, sometimes, which people were mad at. You know, instead of eating some unusual fish dish she'll make me egg sandwich or a hot dog. [Laughs] And then Dad would always... well, Dad, every Sunday as a ritual, I'd work with him at the tavern to clean it up and mop the floor or mop the bar and then he lets me play the pinball machine. And there was a ritual of companionship and Dad enjoyed having me as an eight years old, nine years old, who helped him. And then it was a ritual where I'd look forward to, because I was one of the very few probably Niseis who were real close to the Issei father. And so at that age to hop onto the trolley or street car, to end of the line down to Second and Yesler where they had the Florin Theater where I had an opportunity to go to a movie every Sunday with Dad. I really enjoyed that. I really felt that was something that we had with each other. And so being close to him, I really felt very secure. I think there's something about parenthood that I like to think that probably rubbed off on me when I became a parent -- that I was so protective and wanted to include my kids. So that was okay.

LH: So do you think that this was a really different relationship that you had with your parents that your siblings didn't have?

FF: Oh yeah. I think they had more time. Being nine, the last of the nine -- they called me "Last of the Mohican" kind of kid. And, but you know, I was not that bad a kid, I didn't think, although some people thought differently. But I had, I had idols. I had my brothers to look up to, other athletes and people in the community who I remember. And the weird part of it all is that I remember the older generation who were the good athletes, and I think I had a unusual memory for people who are older than myself. My peer groups, well, school; I'm not, I wasn't academic then, so you don't talk about school and stuff. And people who were my age didn't indulge in playing with the older guys in sports like I did. But as far as my brothers and sisters, they all had to sort of fend for themselves and get grades in school and let Mom and Dad deal with the youngest, as the baby of the family, and take care of me and, and spoil me.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LH: So what was the Japanese American community like? I mean, what do you remember of it at that time?

FF: Oh, it was very ethnic, in that the Japanese community was real tight. I think that's the only way they survived. The athletic program, Courier League, the double AA, B, C, basketball leagues and softball. And I think that whole community kind of rallied around the athletic program, and I think I picked up on that. I like to think that with my, looking up to my brother Daibo, and Seibo, and Joe who were all good athletes, that it helped me to set some kind of unconscious goal to excel. And that part, I think, came later, when I, you know, after we left Seattle and went into internment camp, and to be with the real athletic-oriented California community. And I think being in Tule Lake, California, really brought the best out of me in terms of my athletic, athleticism, if you're gonna call it that. But I was real lucky that there were people to play ball with, and my brothers to showcase me as an athlete supposedly at that age, by that time I was twelve years old. And I really loved the outdoors. Well, I had to play basketball outdoors, and sports, football, basketball, baseball.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LH: Well, let's go to that, sort of that period of evacuation, 1941-1942. What do you remember of that period, sort of that, right after Pearl Harbor?

FF: Well, one hour after Pearl Harbor, I was very, you know, this innocent kid that opens the door. And this is one hour after Pearl Harbor now -- and here two big white gentlemen would say, "We're the FBI, where is Mr. Jimmy Raisaku Fujii?" And I say, "Oh, Dad's here somewhere." And I get him and then they took him. And I thought... I didn't see him after that for three and a half years. And to me that was devastating. And so as I try to track Dad down, he was shifted constantly, from Missoula, Montana, to Bismarck, North Dakota, to Lordsburg, New Mexico, and ended up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Four camps and they were all fathers. They weren't intermixed, you know, husband and wife. They were separated, of course. And I think from that, here we're in California and he's in Mexico, New Mexico and... it was hard, because as I wrote letters, he couldn't write back. He wasn't that adept to writing long letters or whatever. I think he was just dejected. I could sense that. But I did my writing, just to write. And you know, I get really kind of touched by that, 'cause I know for the kind of person he was, to see him go through this whole ritual of abandonment, losing his business, being alone... but, 'cause most of us in Tule Lake were family and we could survive with our friends and athletics and I think the tough part is when you realize that your father is doing nothing. And I think for most Isseis to be not given anything to do, it's almost as much torture as giving them hard labor or something. Because they, they just existed. And to me that ruined a lot of their function to, to feel good about themselves. And once they came back from the war, gee, I could sense the loss of energy, self-esteem, pride, gee, you name it. And I think that's the part where I think bothers me the most, that I can't forget. And I don't feel bad about not forgetting; I'm glad that I do. 'Cause Dad was such a good person that I, I kinda really feel hurt inside, you know.

LH: So how did the rest of the family react after your father was taken?

FF: Well, I probably... I couldn't relate to that. I was too young then. But for me, I think it was really tough. Really tough.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LH: So I mean, did, did your brother sort of take over the role...

FF: Yeah, he took over the store because as you know, the alien law, you know, aliens couldn't own businesses, and my brother took over to run the tavern, but, until we had to move.

LH: And this is your older brother?

FF: Yeah, oldest brother Seibo had to take over. And then there was June, my other sister, who helped out at the store. And that was the tough part, where you know you have to get rid of the business and when the war broke out you're gonna be incarcerated. And I, of course, I was so young all I knew was we were gonna go somewhere... that's about it. I wasn't that in-depth with knowledge about what's happening except there's war. And that the thing that I sort of remember was someone broke our tavern window and wrote the word, I mean, wrote the word "Jap" on this wooden plank we put across the broken window. And I kind of thought, "Gee, how come," you know, and as young as I was -- I was eleven then, 'cause we went to camp and I was twelve -- and I didn't know how to deal with that. I just felt... you just want to assimilate within the family and friends and that's about it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LH: So what did you personally do, you know, in that time between Pearl Harbor and actually being evacuated to Puyallup? What was your life like?

FF: Well, yeah, that was interesting. We just bought a new car at the time -- a 1941 Plymouth Cascade, green sedan -- and I never got to ride it. I'm so mad 'cause I was -- I always wanted to. But since we bought it so late in the game and that, and when the war broke out, you had to sell it quickly or you're gonna lose it. So either leave it, you have to abandon it and so you almost have to pay, you only get about a third out of a brand new car. And that part I was real resentful 'cause I always said, "We got a family car," you know, I felt that was so great. And, but, so family-wise, it was, well, tough for us just getting ready. I think when we were told to take our belongings and the first thing I picked is my mitts and my ball, and maybe my underwear and stuff like that, but not knowing what you could bring but it's only what you could carry. And I thought, I couldn't believe that, so the things that we only could bring, we brought which I'm sure were just clothes and some personal stuff that everybody had, but you had to carry it. And the things we stored, well, we never got back, because the place we stored it in Seattle, you know, it was all stolen after we came back from camp.

And I didn't realize the impact of what it does to the parents, because when they find there's not even that left, not even a bedspring or the personal stuff that they thought they left behind is all gone. So you kind of wonder to this day, where is all that stuff, you know? Whether they threw it away, or junkyard, or whatever. And it's sad because I feel sensitive enough that I knew there was some artifacts that Mom and Dad had that they couldn't bring. But I, all in all, though, I think my folks were fantastically strong to cope with this. 'Cause I think I would have cracked up if I had to deal with what they did. And to be separated, to be alone, to not know the future. Being from another country, supposedly as an Issei. And for us, Dad and Mom had no intention of going back to Japan. I think that the thing that they were looking forward to just making sure that everybody survives. And so they finally -- right prior to the war -- a lot of the sisters and brothers took off for the east, Chicago mainly. So out of the nine, I'd say there was about four that took off to the east... which is a big percentage. Oh, then, yeah, about four. Actually five. Some went to Minnesota, too. Anyway, it was... it just separated the family and you kind of wonder what's going to happen. But eventually when your roots are in Seattle there's a tendency to feel that you gotta come back to your roots... and most of them have, I think there's only... one's in Las Vegas now and one's in Chicago. But the rest of us, four of us are here and the rest passed away, but...

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LH: Well, let's talk a little bit about that process of actually going to Puyallup. Getting everything ready to go. You talked a little about putting stuff into storage and selling the car and having to sell the tavern and things like that...

FF: Yeah, they took a financial loss there. But I think for a young kid, it's sort of an adventure in a sense. But I knew what barbed wires were, I knew what sentries were and you kind of wonder if the sentries are carrying real live bullets or, you know. And then you know you're not supposed to go beyond the barbed wires in Puyallup playgrounds were. I was in Camp A, which was the parking lot, and I never forgot it 'cause I was in section six, and we were mixed with some of the Alaska people, and the Alaska Japanese Americans. And the thing that I couldn't figure out, too, was there was some Alaskans who couldn't even speak Japanese and they, they were there, they were fishermen. And the interesting name that came up was F-o-o-d-o-o -- no, F-o-o-d-e-e, Foodee brothers; they were very large built Alaskans. And they were real fine people, but they were so hurt to, to be in camp. They couldn't understand why they have to be mixed even with supposedly us. And I think that 'cause to me Foo, Foodee isn't a Japanese name, you know. And I think it was the way the government was able to just, maybe because they were fishermen, to just maybe get, move them on or take their business or whatever. Because, as I understand, they took some of the business away from a lot of the Alaska people. And especially these people who were real -- when I got to know them, I wanted to 'cause they were very huge, large and mean-looking, but nice guys. And they had no wives, they were all brothers, four brothers. And it was sad. But I noticed they didn't go to Idaho, when most of the Puyallup people went to Idaho for internment, the Foodee brothers, I think, went back to Alaska for some reason. And I like to think that, I don't know the details, but all I know is that, that they disappeared. They just didn't go to Idaho, I think they went back to Alaska, because the government realized maybe they did make a mistake. So I bet you there's a lot of cases like that.

And so being in, getting ready for even Puyallup like, like you were asking me about getting your luggage and stuff ready. I visualized my folks -- my mom especially, rather -- Dad was gone already. Dad -- Mom didn't know what to do with Dad's stuff, because he's gone and he's in Missoula, Montana. And I think she pondered on what to keep of his. And I think you can't, because if you want to bring some of your personal stuff... and Mom was such a sensitive person, I think she was, really had to kind of give up a lot of the personal stuff that her husband, my dad couldn't take with him. 'Cause I don't think they gave anything to, to my dad. I think the government issued the essentials, the blankets, the sheets, the toothbrush, the soap and everything once he got to Missoula. But Puyallup was a togetherness place, 'cause most of the Japanese communities being close before the war, I think there's a tendency to be close together when you're in camp also. And although we were dispersed in different camps, there's a tendency to visit each other, 'cause you were able to go intermingle, to go from Camp A to Camp C, to B and D. And some were in sad situations, like my brother Joe lived in Camp D, which was in a horse stall. And I went in there, and it smelled like horses, and I said, "Hey, this is, hey, is there a horse around here? 'Cause is this a stall?" And they nod their head, and they didn't want to talk about it, 'cause I think they were so upset. But it's amazing how humans being cope.

And I think for myself, all I remember is filling up a mattress with straw. And I think a couple of my sisters were -- had hay fever -- and they couldn't use straw, so they just had to put a blanket for a mattress and then the pillow and the, pillow by using cloth or clothing 'cause you can't use the mattress, I mean, with the hay. And there was so much inconvenience, and even as young as I was, I thought of the hardships in a sense. And I think the privacy is lost, and I think that pride is lost and... but it's amazing how resilient the Niseis were. I really feel a lot of 'em made the best of it and I think we were, you know, having to line up for mess hall, and to cheer each other on, and they had classes for art, classes for people. There was a guy named Sato, Sato. I forgot his first name, but he was a cartoonist. And I remember he gave a class. And man, I was so happy, I could go and learn how to draw Donald Duck, and Dick Tracy, and what have you. And so as much as I, I knew I had a kind of an interesting fold in this whole picture. As I reflect back, I know it sure wasn't easy for my folks, and my older brothers, who understood what was happening, you know. And I sort of understood what was happening, but you don't get the impact until you get older. But I'm able to reflect back because, I knew it was in the back of my mind what I thought, but I didn't... I wasn't that glib enough to say, "Here's how I feel right now." But, so as I got older, I continually spoke about internment camps to friends and teachers since I was in education, I talked to teachers and friends. No matter what, if I had an opportunity, I won't impose a question on them about, "Did you know that I was in an internment camp, or concentration camp or...?" But if it gave, if I had an opportunity to talk about that, I did. I spoke at the college, and sociology classes, and law and justice classes, and then in high school there's a law and justice class that I partake at Franklin where I taught. And Rick Nagle, who's one of the teachers who taught law and justice, really was sincerely interested in the movement, the Japanese American movement. That's why I kind of always went back after I even left Franklin in '72 and I went to the college to work. I went back to talk to students about what camp I went and how the process went from Puyallup, to those that went from Puyallup to Minidoka, or Puyallup to Tule Lake like my, our family.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LH: Well, let's go, going back to how you were talking about the community, forming there in Puyallup. Did you, did you sort of regroup with your friends, going to visit them even though they were in different camps and play, you know, do stuff with them?

FF: Well, you could only visit. You couldn't play with them 'cause there wasn't enough time. I think you were given like an hour or two to visit. I don't think there was really a curfew or anything, but you couldn't stay beyond a certain... like dinnertime you had to get back before dinnertime or something. But I didn't do that too much, 'cause there was some new people that I got to know in Puyallup also. And so, you know, you play sports and from, anything from pitching horseshoe to playing little outdoor basketball or -- softball you couldn't play 'cause there wasn't that much room -- but we did, and then we played catch a lot. And there were, there's some "white" friends who came from Seattle to visit us, you know, behind -- out of, outside the barbed wire and we were behind the barbed wire -- who would bring us candy and sporting equipments. Gene Boyd, who was a savior for the Japanese American community in Seattle at the park department -- he was an instructor. He loved us, and I, I still love him because he, he kept me out of trouble, or he at least, his direction as to my interests in sports was so keen, that I never fell out of focus to excel in sports. 'Cause he always said, "You can't be a dissipating drinker or smoke or if you want to be good. You gotta dedicate yourself and focus." And I said, "What? Dedicate? What does focus mean?" And I started to understand... you obsess, it gets an obsession, but be good about that obsession. There's other things in life other than just whatever you want to do. And, you know, I remembered that. And my famous saying nowadays is, as I'm older, you focus, but then at the same time you balance out, balance the act. You know, you got, you could be interested -- I can't be, I'm no athlete anymore -- but I do different kind of physical things. But you know, you got family, you got your sports, you got friends, you got your, even colleagues that you might have been in the military service with, which I still keep in contact with. And I think the whole gamut of your life, to keep that balance. I think that was so keen, as I look at it anyway, and the word "balance" seems to have stuck with me all my life, and I think that's good.

For some reason, someone had given me the right direction to, to deal with that, and even 'til this day, my kids mean good friends to me, and my buddies who went to college with me are still my close friends who we... you know, sometimes you don't have to see them every week or every day, I think good friends -- my famous saying is good friends are forever, and I really believe in that. And this Bill Mair, who's a top-notch artist in Seattle, he and I grew up in the art program at the university, and he went to the School of Art in Chicago, and I went to the School of Design. But he, he was more the inner focus, fine artist. But he was a real, a true friend who's always beside you. And he would even... he's the kind of guy I think if we were in army, I mean, if we were in the same service -- well, he was in the air force. But if we were army buddies, he would be the kind of guy that would fight for your life if he's... and I like that, and I like to think that I keep the balance with a person like him, who I don't see often but when we do it's hilarious, we have a great time.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LH: Well, and you also mentioned earlier -- going back to what you said earlier about Puyallup -- is that your family actually didn't go to Minidoka like the rest of the Seattle community, you went to Tule Lake...

FF: Yeah, the reason for that, I think was, I think... as I sort of understood it later, because I was too young to understand all of the politics of what's happening, and you live in a camp, is that if everybody went Idaho, camp wouldn't be ready for everyone. So to say, for the government to say, "Well, those that want to go to Tule Lake early, can," and the assumption that the rest are gonna follow. So naturally you want to get out of a temporary internment kind of a situation to a permanent one, 'cause the barracks are supposed to be better, the toilets are supposed to be better, and so forth. And so you volunteer to go, thinking that, "Hey, the rest of the friends are gonna come back and follow you." But no, so after the main thrust of volunteers went to Tule Lake, well, that was enough to say, "Oh, I think we could handle the rest in Idaho." And I think, I think that was part of a story that I heard about, and I'm not too sure about that, but it makes sense. Because I don't think my brother would have volunteered if he felt that he was going to separate his friends, Seattle friends, and go to California and then the rest go to Idaho.

And for me -- well, for the family, I think in retrospect -- I think it was really a blessing in disguise for me. 'Cause I focused on the family a little bit more, 'cause, you know, you don't have friends like you would -- I had some Northwest people with us, too -- but you focused on family. You played catch with your brothers, and you played ball with your brothers, and then you, you get to know the California contingency, and then you get to get into sports and whatever. And that part really -- it's a plus now because as I go to California and visit friends, and it's terrific to say, "Hey, I've been visiting this buddy that I've known since 1941 or '42 and still this, to this day we're buddies." And I love that; I like to think that you have friends all over. And, I mean, not that I have a heck of a lot, but I could stop in Sacramento, L.A., Monterey, different Nikkei people who were part of my life, and they still are. I still see them. And that part, I think, makes it a plus. Whereas if you grow up with the same people, which is... you develop a Seattleite kind of loyalty. But I always had that, I mean, I knew who my friends were before the war. But you have new friends and I think that was really nice. I really enjoyed the camaraderie, the sports, the good athletes who taught me. I looked up to a lot of the hotshot athletes and I can still remember who they all are, and someone said, "Man, you got a memory, strong memory for that." I said, "Yeah, I always looked up to people who were good models." And I think that's another thing, too, you could have good models, but if you don't follow them or remember them, then they aren't models. But I think these people were for me, and I think that makes up your own, the aura that you supposedly have, you know, that how you grew up and how you develop yourself. And these people add to your spice of life, so to speak.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

LH: Well, you talked a little bit about how you used your family to, you know, get closer to them when you first went to Tule Lake, and get to know them better. But what was it like actually meeting, you know, this new group of Japanese Americans, this new Nikkei group from California?

FF: That's interesting you said that because I think the Californians thought we were living in the boondocks, you know, they thought we were from the mountains. And they also thought differently of the Oregonians, and then they were actually almost anti, or not anti, I shouldn't say that, they, they were leery of Northwesterners. They weren't too sure where we're comin' from. They weren't too sure whether we were as hip as they were, and I like to think we were, but you had to sort of prove your point, 'cause they were the majority. The whole camp of 17,000, I think, I'd say three-fourths are Californians. And I felt from that angle, it was tough to adjust, but once you did, it was... but I think to assimilate into that community, I think it developed your character, 'cause you had to -- maybe for my age level of twelve -- you have to get beaten up once to be accepted, that kind of a situation, especially being a boy. And there were gang-ism -- the Dirty Dozens, the Termites, the San Pedro group -- and then there's a... the Northwesterners didn't have gangs. They were pretty upfront, wholesome people, I like to think that. Not that I'm putting down the Californians but I think it's, it's the nature of maybe where we're comin' from and... but like I said, I was able to really learn a lot in terms of sports, 'cause that was my main goal was to just be good in whatever I did, especially in athletics. And with my brothers being good, and seeing all these real outstanding players, it just, it really made it for me. I was enjoying every minute of it. I'm not going to say that, "Hey, camp was a nice setting and I enjoyed it." I knew there was a lot of sad moments and seeing my mother cry in the barracks. And I didn't quite understand that, but as I got older, I began to realize how, you know, where you're at. Because when the war wind, wind down, and you kinda say to yourself, "What's happening? The war's over, what's going to happen?" And Dad and Mom wanting me to come out and leave camp to finish school, and I left in December 7th from Tule Lake to Seattle, and that was devastating. December 7th -- of all the dumb days to come out. And I was on a train with military people.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

FF: But I got to Seattle and so I could finish school, and, but I didn't realize Dad and Mom sort of could have used me to pack and carry things. But, you know, I'm young, I wanted to finish high school if possible. But it was a nice homecoming to see my old Seattle friends and, "You're what? You mean you're back? And what grade are you? I thought you were a grade behind me." Well, in Tule Lake it was a different scenario. My brother, Daibo, who was always a high I.Q. kind of guy, he always says, "You're not very bright, you know." He says, "You want help, why don't you go to summer school?" I said, "What for? I want to play." And he says, "Well, you got all morning to go to school, don't you want to jump from seventh to ninth grade?" I said, "No, I want to play, and I'm goin' to play ball." But for some reason he convinced me I should go and he helped me. And there's a plus to this, that when you come back you may be ahead of some of the people you grew up with, but then at the same time with some of the people. And, but the minus part of it is that if I would have stayed down one year when I came out of camp, then I could have been red shirt at the high school and become more of a varsity letterman or whatever. But when I stuck it out, things didn't work out -- I wanted to be the first Nisei to come back and get a letter for basketball. I was really looking forward to being someone important. But when that dream fell, it really hurt me. 'Cause when you come out of camp, you don't know how to deal with racism and coaches who weren't too hip on you, even if you were good. And I felt I was capable of playing varsity ball, which I did in camp. So my assumption was I would make the team, but it was really hurtful, I believe. So I played community ball, which actually was a nice thing, too.

So going back to the community, yeah, they were, they were an important part of my future. 'Cause I played in the league and I was able to make something of myself where really kind of be on the hotshot championship team and get to travel. So the irony of it all -- I was able to play on a team that went to California to visit my Japanese American friends and play against them and get beaten up badly by them. But that's okay. I got, I was the only one on the team that was practically from Tule Lake so I was able to see all my old friends. And when you're young, that means a lot to you, to be looked upon as that special guy. Although, like I said, we got beaten up. I didn't care, I was happy to see my old buddies, and they were all poor like we were and I remember they had a pizza party for me and I, so I was... that I never forgot, because it meant so much to me to see my old California hotshot good basketball players who would say, "Yeah, come on, we got a party for you," and I didn't know what to expect. I thought Coke and potato chips. But man, pizza, that was like a big feast. And so we had a good night. I never forgot that -- I thought, that was in Sacramento. We went to play the Sacramento Saints or the, I want, I think it was one of the YBA, maybe the Buddhist group, but they were all good players. They just killed us, but hey, we didn't play, we weren't playing for trophies. Just for, I think it was for entertainment. I think it was a real big attendance, you know, playing amongst the whole Japanese American community, I think it was so meaningful to me, and feeling good about it. And we looked so bad, I know we did. 'Cause the players that we played against were actually players who were above me who were real good. And they're gonna field their best team, and I was on a good team, too. But Californians were a little bit ahead of us in terms of ability, knowledge of the game and seriousness of the game. They seemed to know the technicalities, and they had good coaches, too. Not to say we didn't have any, but I think they were geared for really improving the community. 'Cause they were -- well, Sacramento probably was the biggest community as I remember at that time for that northern California. But of course L.A. wasn't still that organized in the late '40s... but after a while, gee, L.A. took over, you know, L.A.'s got so many good athletes now. And I sort of, ironically, keep up with them, you know, because I have friends who coached, and they used to bring teams up to Seattle, which I would help put on a high school tournament here and got to see them, and see the kids who are outstanding. They were far above our kids and, and it's made it nice to have competition, but I think it became too much of a, logistically too expensive for them to travel.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LH: Okay, well going back to, again, those little sports leagues in Tule Lake. I mean, what was it like actually, you know, how did they organize them, and what kind of...?

FF: Oh, it was well-organized, 'cause we were in a section, or -- section 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 -- there were seven sections and there was nine blocks, nine blocks in every section -- and every section could have a team, a block team -- they have a league for that. And they have made up teams in the double A, which is the best of the camp, camp athletes. And then the single A, and double B's and C's. And then peewee league like I played when I was twelve years old. I think that whole scenario was amazing, because the communities pitched in. As an example, the outdoor sand is our court, and what you do is you sweep away the sand, 'cause you want a hard floor surface. And we all pitched in to sweep and keep it and water it and, and work out the kinks and wrinkles so the ball would bounce properly. And we had like an actual, like a real floor. And then they use, first they use two by fours, but if it stuck out a little and if you were on the line, on the edge line, you could hurt yourself. So we started to get sophisticated, used white flour for markings, but that didn't last long 'cause it... but there were a lot of things that were done in camp to make the game so professional. And every time there was a playing of the hotshot teams, I was there. I watched every good player, and San Francisco Mikado, the Sacramento Wakabas and boy, I can remember all the good players and, and I was impressed. I enjoyed every minute of it.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

LH: So they actually did organize teams in the camp based on where they were from?

FF: Yes, yes. The Northwest team had a later on... at the beginning, the assimilation of the camp wasn't operating except for California -- they seemed to know who to hang out with. The Northwest people sort of hung out with each other, but then as the first year, second year passed -- third year then, like my brother started to play for a California team. They started to find out who the good players are and Daibo, who is right above me, he played for a California hotshot team. And I was real proud of him because he made the team called the Okole House Gang. And that's California hotshots who I used to look up to because they were so good, and when my brother made that team, I said, "How come they got you?" And he was proud and I was proud. And so then later I assimilated into the, I would say Green Waves, but it wasn't, it was the Waves, it's called Waves, I think. And I played with the guys a little bit older than me and made... they made sort of a hotshot all-star team to be invincible, but we got beat. But the point was to be chosen. You know, it does a person a lot of good to have that self-esteem, or to raise your ego a little bit and make you better. And I think to me, I was looking forward to wanting to do better and wanting to excel, and I wanted that part of my life to be part of me always, not realizing that I would end up somehow being a coach.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

FF: But that whole camp scenario of athleticism and teamism and leagues was really an important part of everyone, really. If it wasn't for that, what is there? You know, gambling, there's, there always was that from poker to lagging dimes and pennies and quarters, like little kids would do, to penny ante poker to dollar poker, which is, in those days dollars were a lot, if you could win a dollar. But did mah jong and I learned to play mah jong, which I loved. And so you got those things to do and school, 'course, I wasn't academic in that sense, but enough to just get by.

And was able to leave camp and come back to Seattle and try to just get my diploma and get out supposedly and work and make money. But your interests change according to the friends you have who are planning to go to college, 'cause my intentions weren't there. But I had some good influences, I guess friends that when we came back to... 'cause I was too poor to think that I was going to just fall into an educational track and just get my degree and do whatever I want to. But it was tough. I, when I did finish, of course, I felt like I could conquer the world. But I don't think even my family ever thought of me as an academic kid, and I never was. Joe would say, Joe, no Daibo and Seibo were exceptionally high I.Q. And they had... and I think to me it's sad that they were not the ones who went to college and got their degree and become professors or whatever, because they could have been. In fact, they're the ones who taught in camp. Taught all the guys who had degrees how to teach trigonometry or analytical geometry or algebra to these high school students. And I was proud of my brothers, although I couldn't stand them making noise with the chalkboard in my bedroom.

But I think from that standpoint, I feel I'm the only one out of the whole family of nine to have a degree, and have an advanced degree and I feel real fortunate 'cause the timing was, for me on being the baby, I think afforded that. But I don't think that the timing was there for Seibo, who was an Aeronautic Engineer at the university when the war broke out, too. He was still working at the tavern, but during the daytime he went to the university. But when they kicked him out of the Aeronautic Engineer because they didn't want a quote "Jap" as a engineer, you know, he was let go. And Daibo, he was still in high school. But I think he had no intention of maybe going to a university. I think eventually he would have liked to. He got a scholarship from camp to Wesleyn (University) in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And he never took that, because when he visited my sisters in Chicago and treated them with a nice apartment, clothes, money, a job. Well, he said, "Well, what do I need a degree for?" But you know, in retrospect I wish he would have, because he would have been -- that would have been his comfort zone to be an educator, 'cause he was a good teacher. He's smart and, and I think you gotta have this certain... 'cause he taught me to -- you know, for a kid brother to be taught by older brother, that takes a lot of energy to make me skip from seventh grade to ninth grade and for him to be on my back. You gotta be careful, you gotta be nice and pleasant, patient, and made me, made me want to do well in school. I really think he was really more a part of my life in the positive sense, whereas my older brother Joe and Seibo, they were my role models for athletics. They were, Seibo was good in baseball, Joe was in basketball. And so I had all these lucky situations they don't have. And both brothers, we were real close in the sense that, not in the sense that we played ball together, but you have to -- we always, didn't compete, but you always were proud of each other. And I think that part was evident.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

LH: So your brothers were actually teachers while they were in camp? What else did your siblings do?

FF: Well, they worked in warehouse situations, the sisters did, and Fudge did well and Rinko did well. But when they found out they could leave camp to go out east, I think that's what they were looking forward to. But they worked within a year or a year and a half before they left camp and I think to assimilate and, that's after they got their high school diploma, though. And they wouldn't leave until that, and Kinko got her high school diploma in camp, and then she went out to Chicago. But she really enjoyed leaving camp in the sense that there's more freedom and individuality and it wasn't easy for her to break with, or stay in camp and just exist.

I think everybody sort of had an ambition or goal to leave camp if possible. I didn't have any idea what was going to happen 'cause I was too young yet. So when I left camp, I was, what, fifteen or sixteen and that made it... you know, there was a big question mark. I didn't know what I was going to end up doing. 'Cause most of us were so poor when we left camp and I'd say maybe -- my feeling, I think I talked to somebody -- I'd say 7/8 of the Niseis were, when we left camp, or rather the Japanese American families, were really having a hard time. And I think that hard time is not just physically taxing, but I think it was mentally taxing and the effect of internment, what has it done to you. And so I still remember so much about some people who are still bitter personality-wise almost because of that. And it's because they were never able to achieve what they sort of wanted to do.

They weren't too sure, but I think Seibo, my oldest brother, who was an Aeronautic Engineer, would have been a terrific engineer because he used to make gliders and rubber band airplanes and he had such good hands and he was very creative. Yet he's one of them that never had this real bitter -- inside he might have -- but he'd talk about camp if you asked him. But the older Niseis, who are in their what, seventies now and above or even late -- yeah, I'd say seventy and above -- a lot of them don't wanna talk about camp or reflect back. I don't know why, but I just feel we should perpetuate this experience because it probably will never happen again, and if it does happen at least you got some history to go back and say, "Hey, we don't want this to happen again." That part of it, I feel strong about how we perceive as educators, since I was a teacher. That to continue this education of the Japanese American story.

It's so vast, it's amazing, from Hawaii all the way to, to the States, to the stateside, 'cause Hawaiians came to our camp. They didn't go to other camps, they came to Tule Lake from Sand Island, that's it, from Hawaii and I think there's so much stories that I've heard of those people who came. Some couldn't even speak Japanese. It's sad, they couldn't stand the weather in northern California on Tule Lake. They couldn't understand the coldness, and the bitterness of just being away from their warm tropical breeze. And I felt for them, even then. I looked up a couple who when I went back Hawaii years after, they feel bitter that their, that it ruined their -- what would you call it? The stability within the family structure. That's what one said. And they got sick in camp because the weather was not in tune, you know, the breeze and cold come through the window. Snow, sleet, rain, mud, and I think it was tough.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

LH: Going back to your siblings in Tule Lake, when did they decide to leave and -- sort of date, month and year? And also, how did your mother react to that?

FF: Mom didn't feel like she had any control over that. But I think she knew for somehow the, the betterment for the family that they would make it out on their own, so to speak. Actually, there's no worry for her then. That's the way I felt when I talked to the, my sisters and brothers later. And they didn't look at it that way; they just wanted to get away from that camp scenario. And they left about in '43. No, no, I take it back. About '44 -- mostly between late '43 and early '44 -- I think they left for Chicago. And I think it was okay, I really felt... although there was sort of a gap of loneliness as I gathered because, you know, I'm no companion for Mom, and Dad was in another camp. But I think for Mom to fend for herself -- you know, she made friends to play hana and know the cooks at the mess hall to get to bring home extra rice if there's some left and to have some snack late at night kind of situation. She was noted for that, and I appreciated that. Her kindness really went a long way. She made good friends, and I think that's what probably held her together in some respect.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

LH: So where did your -- you mentioned Chicago -- I mean, what, for what reasons did your siblings choose Chicago?

FF: I think they heard a lot of people going there and that was the main thing. I think it was mouth to mouth from some of the California friends, as well as some Northwesterners who went out there and there was sort of a small contingency of Northwest people. And so mouth to mouth, they kind of felt, hey if that's okay, they got someone to socialize and get acquainted with the city. And that was okay. But of course I, I didn't communicate -- I had enough of my teenage needs to deal with. But they had their life to lead. And they started to come back in the late '40s, I think. It was... I think the home ground is something they can't forget. So when they came back -- Kinko came back, and then Daibo came back, and Rinko came back. But Fudge and June stayed. And so you can't beat the roots, I guess, of Seattle. I think we all still cherish this town, and I still do. And I'm glad that we kind of got together. We're the home base -- although like I said there's two in Chicago, but one left for Vegas and one's still there in Chicago. But Chicago's not the kind of town that I would -- I went to school there -- but too hot, too cold, too big and I was too poor, and it's tough when you have to deal with that. But I had some good memories of going to art school, and my buddy and surviving.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

LH: And I want to go again still with Tule Lake. Of course, after they had the questionnaire, they decided Tule Lake would be the segregation center where they would send the people who were "no-nos" or, or who basically didn't "pass" the loyalty questionnaire. How did, how did that change the camp?

FF: They segregated the camp. They made a camp within the camp, you know. The extreme "no-nos" were put into a different section of the camp who were, shall we say, the antagonists who were supposedly the "pro-Japan" mentality. But in a sense, even I look back I can't blame them. When you're older, you lost your business, and what could this country do for you when you get out, even if you lost the war -- I mean, if Japan lost the war? They were still determined to go back, and a lot of them did go back. But of course I understood they all, well, in fact, I know they came back. They had the opportunity to -- they were lucky to do that. But it was sad because... I think that camp life with the "no-nos" and the "yes-yes" or whatever -- there were people like us who were stuck. I was there because Dad's gonna come from Missoula, Montana -- I mean, Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tule Lake. And in order for him to be released -- they won't release him to a city. So we didn't want to go back to Chicago. So they'll release him to a camp like Tule Lake, which is very guarded. They had a barbed wire fence, as well as another set of fences, you know. And so the camp supposed to be "the loyal Japan" group of... well, they want to repatriate, some of 'em wanted to repatriate to Japan. My folks didn't. It was just that circumstances I could be with Dad and Mom and whoever was left with us and at that time, by that time I think it was just me, Mom and Dad, everyone else had left. Oh, Seibo was there, Seibo is the oldest brother, and he was married and had children. So he and I were about the only one, all the rest left camp.

And so it was a tough situation, because we were forced to go to Japanese school, and I have an interesting story about that. I thought, "I'm not too bad at Japanese," so they, as a fourteen years old, I went into the third grade level, which is about right, 'cause of what you learn in Japan school, it's always below your American school level. Third grade thinking, "I could pass that." And so as you read the Japanese hon or the book, I'm so lousy that the teacher says, "Do you really know how to read?" And I said, "Well, I don't know, I'm trying." He says, "You know what? We're gonna put you in the, another class," which actually was a nice way for him to say, "You're demoted." So I go to the second, second grade level and I wasn't too bad, I thought. And then they talked about shaving your hair, because, you know, if we're gonna be Japanese people who are going to go back to Japan, you gotta get the, they called it bonborobozu or whatever word it was. And then I said, "Hey, I'm gonna lose all my curls." You know, I used to have this real pachuco curly hair. I said, "I ain't gonna let them touch that." But then what happened was -- I tried to do well and he says, "I think we are gonna have to send you to another class," and not knowing it's the next level down again. In first grade, I thought -- I could tell that was the first grade -- and not knowing I did the right thing, because they said, "You're so lousy that it would be a shame to have you back in Japan, 'cause it would be embarrassing to think you were a Japanese student who could hardly speak," or read, rather. And I think I could speak to some degree but... but anyway they were very upset, and so when Mom saw me come home with my long hair, she says, "What happened?" And I says, "Mom, they threw me out of school." In a sense, that worked out, because, see, if you quit, it puts the sham on my folks, because they will think my folks had influenced not going to Japanese school. But when they kick you out, it was almost like saying, "We don't need you, we'll forget you." And that's what I wanted, so I kept my hair, I got my teenage pride back.

But that part of it was very interesting 'cause some of my other friends, really interesting enough, were of the same. There was two out of the maybe six guys that I buddied around with had that happen to them, too. They were demoted and kept their hair and I said... but we really didn't think of it in terms of hair. Although we thought if we had to, we had to. But it's just that my interest in excelling in a foreign language -- I could speak it, but it's just too tough to read. And writing, I wasn't the strongest in writing, maybe that's the art in me that I could use my hand. But to be having to read fluently and speak properly, I just didn't have that strong desire and I don't think the teacher really looked upon me as a good candidate for Japan. Not that I wanted to go back. And my folks didn't -- they had no desire for us to go back to Japan.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

FF: The irony of that picture, though, is that the teacher -- I could mention his name, but I won't, 'cause I never forgot it -- he really chewed me up because he said, "You know, you should try more harder because if you're gonna be this 'real good Japanese student' and do well in Japan," and all that. And I, in my mind, I'm saying to myself, "No way you're going to catch me going over there." But 'cause he said he was going to be this diehard -- 'cause he was a Kibei teacher -- and the irony of it is that, of it all is that when I was in 'Frisco after, years after the war ended. So I'm going to downtown 'Frisco to eat at a dinner -- and I never forgot this. I saw this guy eating with some couple, people I can't remember who he was with. I told my wife, "I think I know that guy," and she says, "He looks older than you." And I said, "Well, I think he was that Japanese teacher," and I said, "That teacher in camp." And then, so when we were -- I didn't go over there to talk to him -- but we were leaving the restaurant and it just so happened he was right by there. And I said, "Mr. so and so?" And then he, he nods his head. And I said, "You don't remember me, do you?" And he says, "No." And I said to myself, "It's a good thing." [Laughs] I said, "I was a student of yours in camp." And he said, "Were you a good student?" and I said, "Japanese school," and I said, "Yes, I was a real good student," and my wife hits me and, "You lied." And I said, "I just wanted to see if that was him." Feel like telling him off because he said he never would stay in this country, because that was his goal. Of course, being a Kibei I think, and having family back there and everything, he had something to look forward to but it's interesting. He made, you know, he spoke in English by then. He had a accent in camp but -- because I saw him in the late '50s I think and he still looked -- I mean, I could tell by his face and his manners, because he's the one who told me how I'd be a sham to the Japanese race if I ever got back to Japan. But you know, I mean, I wish I would have been glib and capable.

But I think by that time, though, I think the war ending and everything... so many things were happening, the "no-no boys" coming in, and all the things happening with the pro-Japan group waking up in the morning with their bald-headed club. And then I thought it was not Seinendan, but it's a, it's a group that were pro, they wore -- they had sweatshirts and they woke up every morning, and they would run as a group. And they sound like the military because they'd go "sha-sha, sha-sha" and use the word "ha-sha, ha-sha" and I'm thinking, "Oh man, four o'clock in the morning, what is this?" And I used to hear them and I used to think, "Man am I glad, if getting up at four o'clock to run for what?" But that was their way of regimentation and I think, I guess the Japaneseism that they wanted to impose on the "yes-yes," I mean, the "no-no" ones who wanted to go back or repatriate or whatever. Or not "no-no," but the "no-no" was another thing. But the ones who were really wanted to repatriate back to Japan. The "no-no" people were not ostracized or I think a lot of people didn't know who some of them were. And they weren't segregated as much as the extremists who were put into the other camp. But there were a mixture of the, I think there were a few California "no-no" boys who were with the extremists who were put into this camp within the camp. They separated them for, to keep us separated for influence us for whatever. 'Cause they really gave you the feeling they had no desire to stay in this country.

They were, there were things like murders in camp, people who felt that you were loyal to this country... so you really had to keep your mouth shut and didn't say much. In fact, when I left in 19-, December 7, 1945 to Seattle, my buddy Billy Nakagawa, never forgot him, from California, came with me on the truck to see me off, 'cause I'm the only one leaving to get out of camp. 'Cause if they knew you're leaving, their assumption is you're a disloyal traitor, or whatever they might be thinking about, these pro- people, the extremists. And my folks were worried, so Billy was nice enough to come along, in case something might happen but you know, I'm a teenager and I don't know what's going to happen. And Billy was maybe a year or two older than me and I really appreciated his friendship and protection, but nothin' happened.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

FF: After we got out of the gate they take you to the train depot in Klamath Falls, Oregon, right across the border from Tule Lake, California -- it was right on the border there. Put me on a train, gave me $29 and that was it, and my one luggage. And I'm saying to myself, "Holy man, it's, is this all we get?" And it was hard to believe things were happening so quickly, and then you're feeling so inadequate, and feeling so poor. If it wasn't for Seibo to accept me at his house part-time to live with him until Mom and Dad came out -- and then to go over, go through the whole poor situation again. And the loss of pride that they had by having to live with a family and pay a little bit upstairs. We had the bathroom upstairs and a bedroom, that's all. And Mom shared the food once in a while with the people of the house. But she couldn't take that too long and so finally found an apartment, which was nice. And I tried to work. I couldn't, couldn't, I wasn't a good gardener, 'cause I hated manual labor. [Laughs] But all of the other kind of labor kind of jobs that I took, I tried to help out, or fend for myself and I think... 'cause I knew Mom and Dad had nothing and that really made it tough.

So all of us brothers and sisters got together to pool our money together for monthly, to pay for apartment. And that was difficult for the folks 'cause they're the ones who normally provided for us and now they lost all their humility maybe or pride and they have to accept to survive. And I really, I think as the baby of the family, for some reason I, I took it up, took it very seriously and took it real hurtful for my folks to go through that. Because I felt that I... I don't know, I felt this inner feeling what they're going through. I think it's 'cause I see... after they both came back to Seattle, I could see them just not that happy. They make the best of it, but I could sense there was no future, no money to start the tavern again, no owning of any property, nothing to offer the kids. And I think when they can't leave a legacy, I think that really hurt my dad. In fact, Dad didn't die of a heart attack or diabetes, he died of just old age and just heartbroken. I think he, and that part, it bothers me a lot. Mom was more resilient, she knew how to socialize, she knew how to talk to you. She had a concession at a tavern -- a food concession -- so that people that come from the, drink beer, they would come to ask her for chicken and all these other kinds of things, but... and she knew how to socialize, she enjoyed that. But Dad was left in limbo, and he didn't have that gift of gab, he was just a hard worker. I think from that standpoint, it was good for Mom to be that way, but it was sure tough for Dad, and myself, being so close to Dad, and my mom, too. But Dad -- in my own way I just felt that was really tough.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

LH: Well, going back again sort of right before you left, I mean, your father actually, eventually was reunited with you and your mother and your brother in Tule Lake. What was that like?

FF: Yeah, I think when the Justice Department okayed his release from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Tule Lake and I said, "Dad's coming back, man." And then I told Seibo, who was still in camp, "He's coming back." And so we knew what day -- they didn't tell us what time. So waiting for a truck to drop him off, and we waited and waited -- and I remember it was in the afternoon, and it was a hot day, and the truck dropped him off, and he had to get off the back, and I grabbed his luggage and I brought it inside. And, now, I didn't see him from '41 December 7th 'til, '44 something, in '44. So that's a few years, and I think when I've grown up so much... I, my body's changed, my looks changed and I'm more a man. I mean, I've grown about 5-6 inches. And so as he looked around the family, Seibo nods and his, my dad's grandson and he looks at Mom. And then some guests that knew him and some people in Tule, Seattle folks that knew him and I think... who else was in camp at that still, Seibo, me, Mom and Kinko. They were all gone in a sense, but the whole scenario was the lot of his peer group, who Dad sort of remembered and didn't, because I think he was, he was too tired that day. But the bad scenario was, as he went around the room, he nodding his head and kinda greeting everybody by looking at them, and kind of saying, "I think I know you, but, hi, how are you." But then he points to me, of all people, and he says, "Who's this boy?" And, you know, that, that really shook me. But I, I never forgot that, because I felt loss at that time. And I think that mental part of it all, that's what, I think the effect of camp does to you. It isn't the other monetary kind of things that get to you. 'Cause you could always sort of adjust. But the loss of a family tie. It was tough.

And, but I was glad. I was glad he was there. In fact, I tried to be this nice guy to Dad. I said, "Dad, I heard you played shogi a lot," and, you know, it's that Japanese chess game. And I said, "If you teach me, I'll play with you," 'cause, you know, I want him to have something to do. And he tried to teach me -- the dummy son, "I can't teach him this." But I tried, I really tried, and my brother Seibo knew how to play. He tried to say, "You're too dumb for this, you know, how could -- Dad won't have fun playing with you." So Dad found some older gentlemen to play with, so that was good. But it was hard. I think I lost that, that tie, and ever since then it's been, it was downhill. 'Cause he lost his pride. And to see him come back to Seattle poor. And so... but I wish he would have been -- let's see... he passed away in '66 and he was in a nursing home, and we moved into this house in '65 and wanted him to come see the place. But mentally he wasn't able to deal with that. 'Cause I wanted him to be proud that I had this nice home, and wanted him to appreciate it and think that if it wasn't for him, to be proud of me. But I think he just... well, he couldn't. Then when Mom passed away in '77... well, she was in a nursing home, but one Thanksgiving I thought, "Maybe she could come over." And she was going to. I had a Volkswagen VW bus, so I thought, "Oh perfect. My brothers could lift her and put her in the bus and bring her over to this house." And I thought, "Oh, that would be great." But she canceled out, and I thought, "Oh gosh, I wanted to surprise her and let her know that her son's doing okay," and so I was, that was another tough part.

I think for some reason I probably took it the toughest of all the kids. I was so angry at that Keiro nursing home that I think when you lose your father or one of the parents first and then the second. The first one isn't too tough, but the second one becomes tougher, because it's the finality of no parents at all. And guess what, I was at, on the parking lot after I found out, waiting for the doctor to arrive. And I went to ,the Buddhist bus was parked there. And I was angrier than heck and Susie my daughter was with me. And I was angry at the world that this had happened, and I punched right into the side of the bus and I must have hit right in between the flanges so that just a big dent, dent. Okay? I said, "Gee, did I do that? 'Cause it don't hurt my hand, I must have hit it perfect, right?" So I went in to see the Buddhist bus driver at Keiro and asked him, "Is that your bus out there? 'Cause I think I got a dent in it," you know. He came out and said, "That's not you, how could you, your car isn't that high." And I said, "No, no my..." "Your hand? What are you doing up there?" And I didn't realize that when you're angry, I had done that. But you know he couldn't believe me. He didn't believe I did that and I said, "I did it with my hand. My daughter could tell you. Whatever the damage I'll pay for it." And then he says, "No, it's okay." And it was sort of a humorous thing and yet I was angry, and that's what happens when you lose your final parents. But that part, I said to myself, boy, I needed to release, I needed to release. So, I think to see your parents in a nursing home like that and both falter in it, it was tough. I think, you know, you don't want to deal with that and yet I'm glad I feel that way. I think it's because I cared for them so much and I wish I could have done more. But like the baby of the family you can't, you know, wealthy enough to take care of them, or you got your own life to lead. But they always managed to take care of me always so... but we all survived.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

LH: Well, as close as you were to your parents, was it really difficult for you to leave, a couple months before them to...

FF: Yes, it did. It's interesting you said that. 'Cause when I left, it didn't dawn on me who gonna help them pack and lift up the stuff and they were... I shouldn't say they were too old. They must have been, gee, in their fifties or that's not too old, but still, it's a lot of labor to do. And no one, Seibo, I think, sort of helped but he had his family to deal with and -- I take it back, Seibo left before me. So there was no one left but myself in the family, and I think that made it tough. But only in retrospect, though. I said, "Geez, who's going to help them?" I didn't even realize. But I heard some people in the same block helped them out, which was nice. I thought that was nice that they did that. But, you know, when you're young, all you're thinking about's yourself. You want to get out of camp, settle down and go to high school, which I wasn't looking forward to. 'Cause I think to deal with white society after you've been in camp for four years is tough. And I was really uncomfortable, and thinking that I had lot of things going for me such as sports and all, but when that fell through, you feel like I have nothing. And being -- like I hate to smile on the poor -- but I think it's because most of the Niseis were poor in a sense. There were some who had property, I think, which worked out for them. But I only could speak of our family, and I think it was a tough for my folks. But amazingly, we all survived. You know, it's -- Dad lived 'til, well, few years in nursing home, but Dad -- no, Dad wasn't in the nursing home too long. He died at eighty-four, Mom in '66, Mom in '77 was eighty-three. So they were quite a few years apart. But they, they made... you know Mom never gave up. She, she was really a special person to... Dad, he, he never griped, moaned. He just existed and I think that part hurts when you think of looking at your parents as a person who all used to be smiling, and if Mom invites people, he doesn't care, 'cause Mom's a good cook and so forth. And Dad was a provider in those days -- to have a tavern and raise nine kids. If you could survive with that, in fact I kind of, I kind of wonder -- I'm awed that my father and mother had nine. I thought wow, it's tough enough to deal with a couple now, or even one.

No, I think I've been lucky, 'cause everybody in the family is supportive and I think when I even went to college, they didn't say, "Hey, dummy, you're not gonna make it." I think they never said, "Hey you're gonna make it," I think it was up to me. But they were on the long haul were proud that probably I had finished. 'Cause the day that Dad found out that I got -- well, JACL had a dinner for all the graduates and I said, "Mom, you going to come to the graduation party? I have to go." And, "Dad's going to go with you." And I said, "Okay," so Dad came. I said, "Gee, Dad never goes to places," but he sat with me. I was thinking, "Oh, big deal, got to sit and eat and do things." All of a sudden they're naming people's names and says, "Frank Shobo Fujii, Bachelor of Arts, University of Washington," because there were people from other colleges, B.A. and art education and art. And then when I stood up, gee, I was shocked, my dad was so proud. I didn't feel -- I didn't expect that. He, 'cause, see, I didn't -- at that time it didn't dawn on me I was the only one in the family that had a degree. And I think for him to think that one of the kids got education and "made it," so to speak, in terms of being able to go to the higher, the school of higher education, I think he, he showed his proudness. And I didn't -- I thought that Dad was just gonna sit and smile and be happy. Well he, he really felt emotional and I felt hey this is worth it, you know. And that part, it never left me. 'Cause I thought it was going to be a drag of a dinner, and awards ceremony and getting your certificate or whatever they gave, JACL gave you at the time. And so that made it, I guess, when I felt he -- although life is just beginning when you get your degree, it hadn't even started yet, you know. But I was, I was pleased. I didn't think that was going to be a big thing.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

LH: So again, going back to that, sort of that immediate period right after you came back to Seattle -- and you talked a little about it earlier in terms of the Japanese community, and how the sports leagues sort of helped you when you couldn't get onto the high school team. But what was it like sort of going back to this community, and sort of not having the same, same kind of situation as it was prewar in terms of having a really closely tied-in Japanese community?

FF: Well, I think the community was, or should I say the sports especially, and what I loved the most was basketball. And I think that was a social event for the whole week, because most of the Niseis, or Nikkei population, had kids playing in sports and Buddhist church was the center of most of the -- if you call it the important games -- and Friday night was the special night. And I think it brought everybody together. It was crowded, like Madison Square Garden, there wasn't a place to stand, you know, and because of most of it was standing and sitting, but I was real proud to play in the community. Yes, I lost my stature in terms of being the first Nisei in getting a letterman sweater from Garfield when I didn't make the team. I could have sat on the bench a couple of years, but that's no good, I didn't want that. So I'm glad I stuck it out with the community so that alternative of having the community was so important, that when I made the team and been able to travel to California. It was sort of like saying someone up there is looking after me. Because when I was able to travel with the team to Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Idaho, Idaho Falls and, and playing all the Ontario, Oregon and all these different teams and some California, Oakland. I think it was great to say, hey, if I sat on the bench and been on varsity but didn't make my letter and I miss all this. So in a way it worked out for me. It didn't, you know -- you have more prestige in the community if you do well, they remember you more. And I think that part any boy would like.

And plus, my brothers, to be proud of the fact that they are playing against you, too. I had played against some of my brothers then 'cause I was on a team, supposedly the best team in the Northwest at the time, and they play against other teams and we beat them. But the point was, it was sort of a irony that the baby of the family playing against the older brothers who used to be my idols and I, I get to beat them. But then we're still, you know, we're not... we're not enemies and we're not vying for anything important. Just the fact that they were part, probably a catalyst to my interest and my ability. But to be able to, to achieve like I have, I feel lucky, and to even expound on that issue in this interview, I think it's... I feel good about it because instead of me saying well, I'm bitter about my folks, I'm bitter about my life, I'm bitter about having a lousy marriage, I'm bitter about... you could talk about all these bitter things and the bitterness can't help, and I think, I like to think, if I have something to say on this issue about internment or, or whatever the Densho Project has to offer, I think I -- I have gained lot of the things that I think I never thought I would. And I'm real pleased that I'm happy with myself and the community, and my former marriage to my former wife who passed away. And I think I have no regrets and I think to hear from my standpoint, I think it might lend itself to be some worth because I, I have, I have all this to say, but then at the same time, I've achieved a lot.

I feel self-satisfied in that sense of what I was in the community and I, I think we all want to feel like we're accomplishing something or be part of the community or offer the community or give to the community which Mich, my former wife and I had offered to. And I have no qualms to say we did it 'cause we wanted to. Not because some people might say, "Well, how come you gave all your time to the community or to these projects?" 'Cause we wanted to, no questions asked. If you have to question it, then don't do it. And we always maintained that. My wife was super about that. And you know, she's the one that raised thousands of dollars for Keiro through her corporate contacts, and mine through my interest in the graphics were designing the programs and being at the graphic part and the art program of the construction of Keiro. And I loved that. I mean, it was, just fit, so both of us to offer that issue to the community, it felt good. And I think everybody should do that. And even now, I don't mind doing a lot of community things but I -- I'm not into meetings, I'm not into arguing, just tell me what you want me to do in the background, such as graphics things or things I could do at home. Like I just finished a banner for somebody just today and for the community and stuff like that which isn't much, but I, I feel it's a way to contribute without, you know, having... like some people need that contact of verbality back and forth with each other. I think it's because I taught and I've been in the community long enough and, well, at my age, I don't need it. I think you have to tell yourself when you want to continue on and hear yourself, you know, hear yourself speak at meetings and no, not me. I'm not into that.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

LH: Well, it sounds like you've got a really sort of strong tie with the Japanese American community, the Nikkei community here in Seattle. And I actually want to jump off on that point, because it's actually a point that people have been bringing up about ethnic communities in cities across the nation -- in terms of how well that sort of helps people, and how much it hinders them from succeeding in sort of "the larger society." How do you feel that this, your contact -- especially after the internment and returning to Seattle -- how the communities have actually helped you or hindered you in any way in terms of...?

FF: I never looked at it that way. I think whatever needs of the community you kinda try to fit in if you can. If I can't, I'm not gonna get into it. A good example would be when Dr. Uyeno talked about the construction of the Keiro nursing home, and he says, "We're gonna have to raise millions, you know." And I'm looking at him thinking, "Well, who's going to do all the work, man?" I ain't, I'm not gonna, I don't have millions or... but then when they outlined the committees and stuff which I got involved in, which is fine, and I think to be part of that kind of a constructive service... there's a lot of the people in the community, young and old, which helped me work with the community and understand. But I think my perspective might be different than the average Nisei because I think, unless you're an educator, and maybe that's just me, but I think there's a tendency to always feel like wanting to educate the other people or wanting to be part of the community, wanting to offer your services, whatever you could do. If I can't do certain things for the community, I'm not going to do it if it's not my bag. In other words, I'm not gonna, I won't care to -- everybody's got their needs and desires and if you want to be president of JACL, you gotta live it, you gotta speak it and play the game, so to speak. That's okay, I think we need that, but that's not my bag. I like to do the background stuff and I'm not trying to be humble, no. I think I'm good in my own ways and I like to feel proud of what I offer and what I do. But the community, yes, right now I think the community has been dispersed because of the age level. I think a lot of the younger Nikkei kids have dispersed, got married, intermarriages. It's sad that that community isn't there anymore like it was. But, you know, this is the 1990s now and I think you gotta go with the changes. And if you could be happy with intermarriages and what have you -- you know, before the war, you think what, you're gonna get married to a what? Chinese or Korean, or white or whatever, this would be a sham like. But now, hey, times change, and some -- my daughter's married to a Caucasian fellow, one of them, and he's a fine human being. And to me, you know, I'm saying hey, to each his own, but then times have changed.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

FF: We can't have this community anymore, but it's nice that we could still do so, however the contact would be the only contact for community kind of thing would be like JACL, because it's, seems to be the only organization that sort of grabs a community. Because there's a eastside community JACL in Seattle and this is the main one. And that type of a thing, and then it's easy to talk to people about JACL and the community, because it's sort of the focal point, so to speak. I think without JACL -- I'm not trying to be, patronize JACL -- but it's the truth that without it, I think, where's the contacts going to occur? Where are you gonna say, "Hey, I'm important, come to my house, let's just talk about internment camp." No, the JACL has been such a big part of the whole picture of internment camps. And yeah, there were some sad lights about some people who think we should have gone and so forth, and I'm not gonna argue that point. But I still think that's crazy to think that we should have gone. I think we shouldn't of had to go, but I think the fact that JACL has held the community in a lot of respect... I might not go to all the functions and meetings, but I still feel akin to the officers and to the people... if I don't like the officers, I don't go, if I do, I go. Hey, human nature takes over, but I still think it's a plus thing.

And to be... I'm sort of proud of the fact that I have been because when I did the design for the Issei, Nisei, Sansei with the barbed wire going through the design, I really felt real proud that I'm able to interpret Issei, Nisei, Sansei and the circle representing the Yonsei and Goseis or whatever you might talk about. But I think that issue of the Japanese American picture -- I like to think that we could always refer back to it. I'd be upset that my kids can't talk to other people. So as much as I've talked to my kids about it, I tried to talk about details, camps and some of my tears about my dad and mom and stuff like that. And I think to me, they should know that, and I think there's nothing wrong with that. And they can't feel the same as, themselves because of what I felt, because you know, we come from a different angle. We're -- I'm out of camp and been successful in the sense that raised the kids without poverty, so to speak, and looked after their welfare. But I want them to still be sensitive to the fact that Grandma and Grandpa and everybody else that, and the Niseis have really paid their dues and we have a good story to say and really be proud of their heritage.

And I think one thing I'd like to say is that the irony of this whole issue, of the Japanese American is the epitome of the true American dream because the parents tell you to be honest, forthright, get educated, listen to the teachers -- they're always right, and what have you. You know, the citizenry of the Japanese Americans, that how we were brought up, we're -- actually the irony, we were the perfect minority, and yet the irony is that we were the ones that were incarcerated, and I think that to me it's a crazy irony -- and I'm so put aback by the government thinking, we are the enemy here at the time and to go through that suffering as we did. Sure, if you're going to say, well there's a lot of things that happened to the community and there were some pluses and minuses. Yeah, but does that mean my folks had to suffer just for our case? That's not right. I mean, there's a lot of communities now that, that their parents suffered things, but not, not in the degrading parents like they did our folks, you know, when the war broke out so... but that part I'm proud because as a minority then, I would say the Japanese Americans were the real special. And I'm saying it because I am, yes, but I'm saying it because there's so many goodness that I've, you know, even talking about war, which war is war. But the mentality of the loyal Japanese Americans who fought in the 442nd and all these military organizations were real. Everybody's proud of, and I think to me, that part I'm proud, and they proved a point that hey, we are a strange, good breed. And that proved -- and proven themselves and now they're finding out, there's people in this country finding out that the MIS, the Military Intelligence School has been such a big step, who saved a lot of American lives in the Pacific also, which is another irony that thinking that we're the enemy. We've been actually saving the American lives, you know. And you weren't able to expose that issue or tell anyone, because I think you were under oath to keep it quiet until so many years after the war or something. And I think that was hogwash, I think they should have said something before, but anyway, I could go off on a tangent.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

LH: Well, I still want to go back to this issue because of, sort of what you've been saying is how the Japanese American community really has been something special in terms of the way they've integrated. But really, how has that, how has that affected the way that both you and sort of other Nikkei have become part of the larger society and worked with primarily other ethnic communities, and also the Caucasian community, in Seattle first and across the nation?

FF: I think we had to, though. I think it... it happened because society changes and our interests and as our kids grow up, you want them to be part of the mainstream and to succeed and, and so you have no control over what the community is going to dictate anymore and you wish they could lean on the community. And I think that's the part that is sort of sad, because if I told my daughter now, why don't you join some... well, Ann, my one daughter, is very into community, but if all my other daughter who's not, but she's a mother and she's busy. But to get them into the Japanese American scene or to help out, the JACL has a young, a young group, within the, what's that group called the... not Densho Project but the...

LH: Mi-Yo-I-Kai?

FF: No, is that Mi-Yo-I-Kai, the younger group?

BK: I think they're Sansei.

FF: The Sansei group. I think that's great that... I was shocked when they said they were gonna have that, because I thought that was beautiful. And I wish if I had a younger daughter right out of high school, I would make them partake. But that way, there's sort of a way of learning through osmosis from the older people like us about what has happened, and they could refer on some of the past history and incidents and what our experiences have been and to perpetuate that memory, and I think that would be great. That's why I don't mind when I talk at community colleges and high schools and get emotional. And I was, felt even great 'cause when the non-ethnic groups would even have tears in their eyes after my talk, I feel real good because they really empathize and they, they're hurt that I went through my hurt and what my parents gone through. And I think that's... there's nothing wrong with that and I want my kids to feel that. But I think the whole conglomerate of community to be part of your growth pattern, I think that's passe now. I hate to say it, unless like you said, you go back into the community yourself and participate such as if there's an Asian newspaper you, you get involved with activities, you go to all the Bon Odoris, and the Asian cultural kinds of activities. Or the Japanese Nikkei community would be Nippon Kan Theatre, the odoris and the taiko groups and I like that. I think if we could keep on perpetuating that, not let it go, that's one way. And, but to make it a thing of the past like we've been through -- like before the war, is such a concentrated effort of togetherness, 'cause they had to, 'cause there was prejudice before the war.

So, and I think, when we talk about the word "prejudice," it's going to prevail. There's no such thing as -- you know, people talk about, we want to look at everybody as what they are and no color at all, but no, no. I don't buy that because when there's, when there's racial situations and you look like the enemy or you look like the one they're talking about, you become a question mark. You know, it's just like the political Huang, that guy that contributed to the government, to the Democratic party. I even hear people say yeah, you Asians, or you Chinese, thinking that I'm Chinese or some other person being Chinese that... it's not to say you get bitter about it, it's to say it's a reality and that you cope with it. And then you, if you can speak out about it, rather than to say let it go like maybe the past pictures of Niseis, where some of the Niseis would be first to say, "I better not make waves."

But I think you should make waves in your own way 'cause I like to think we're intelligent enough and we've proved ourselves enough. And that's another part of history, when you've proven yourself as a community and as a Nisei group from military to scholar to, as human beings. Hey, that's pretty good if you could name three things, some groups can't name those three things. So for me, yes, the community was real key when I was a teenager and, as I was pressured by the peer groups to continue on with my education, 'cause you know, your girlfriend may be going to college and you're going to say, "Am I going to be left behind? I better go." [Laughs] I think that's okay. I think that was my case in a sense. Although my good friends were always able to steer me the right way and I was a listener. I wasn't one of these that thought I knew everything and I think from that standpoint, I feel grateful. But I had my own mind about my likes and dislikes. I didn't care, as much as some of my friends drank and smoked I never did, because I was strong about that. Some of them were into rock music, country music, and I said, "I can't stand you guys," 'cause I'm a jazz buff. And I stood my ground and I feel, I still, I still do that way. People know me for what I am and I think that's okay. And I'm, I'm happy with myself that way.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

LH: Well, I want to sort of reel back a little bit toward after you graduated from high school and decided to go on to college. What was really the impetus for you to decide to go to college and, you know, after all that, and then choose the direction that you wanted?


LH: Well, I want to go to again, sort of going back to that question, sort of when you decided to go to college and also choose the direction that you mentioned, what influenced that?

FF: Well, actually it was my peer group, I think. The main thing was that I didn't have no intention of going to college, 'cause I felt "being still poor," that you wanted to make money and make a livelihood. But then when you find out that your girlfriend is gonna go to college and leave you flat, and gonna be away from you, and they're going to be academically ahead of you, if you, whatever you call it. But I thought about it, and my friends who would say, "Well, hey if you don't go, go to college, you're gonna be left in the back seat," so to speak. And I said, "Well, I'll try." And I like, I liked going. But the point was, I didn't think I could afford it, and there was no scholarship at that time, but then I just so happened to get a part-time job at weekends at the Rainier Poultry, which I, I worked there, and I think that helped. That was part of, the economics was sort of part of it, but then peer group pressure, too, 'cause I'd say the majority of my good friends were going to go to the university. Some knew just about what they were gonna be, such as pharmacist or doctor or... in my case, I wasn't too sure. I was in the arts, I said I will not forego my art, and I would like to be an art teacher, but I wasn't too sure. So I took the, supposedly, the fine arts course and commercial art they called it at the time, and both two degrees I was seeking. And when you got them, though, that was fine, but it doesn't mean that you're gonna have a good job and have finance. But, as I graduated, of course, I had to serve my two years, military, so that really made up my mind. I wanted to be a teacher after, because I did sort of some, not teaching, but some, that type of thing in the military, as a cadre or whatever you call it. But I was happy to think that maybe I might really like to teach high school art or whatever, and that was my goal. But as far as the community direction, our age group seemed to be interested in higher ed, so when we did graduate, I had no intention to sign up for the university. But, as you listen to your peer groups and what they're doing and what their plans are -- I was about a quarter or two late after they -- but at least I felt they were my guiding light, so to speak. And I thank them for it, because I always maintain that without their help, I would've been really in bad shape, but supposedly... and I wouldn't have married my wife, which helped me through it. She wasn't an art major, she was an accountant and she became a CPA and I was just an art major person, and not knowing what my future's gonna hold. But it all worked out for me and I feel lucky that way.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

LH: Well, I guess, you know, my question now would be why, why specifically art, in terms of, you know, as an interest? Because again, the old stories, that, well the Japanese were always engineers or they were very, you know, business accountants or something like that.

FF: Yeah, I wanted to do -- actually, my first goal about education was not thinking I'm going to graduate, I'm gonna be a real jack of all trades, or should I say have a well-rounded education. Like take, which I took oceanography, cartography, map making, magic and religion, and anthropology. I took all these weird classes, 'cause I said, "I want to be well-rounded." But then it came to a point where, hey, if you're going to be that close to graduation, start taking some of the necessary courses, and I finally got serious and then I got on track. I started to study and my wife was happy, I mean, my girlfriend at the time. She was happy that I'm feeling that. Because I think if I didn't feel it, she couldn't have forced me to. I think she even said that. She said, "I'm not here to force you to finish school," or... and it was up to me and I think I realized that. And I feel fortunate that sometime reverse psychology on that part was an issue that I fell for and I wanted to make my own decisions. And although art was such a far-fetched goal, that what am I going to be? A professor of art? No, I didn't think of it. I didn't know if I was going to be teacher. I didn't know if I am going to be a great commercial artist, which I didn't care to be, because I knew it was a tough game. But I wanted to have a degree, for one thing, the degree part was sort of a first thing first, kind of thing. To have that sheepskin, because that was supposedly, someone told me that, "At least, Fujii, that it you gives you self-esteem. You will attain something, especially in higher ed," and I thought of it that way. I said, big deal, but you don't have a job. But then I thought of it, and I said, hey, that's okay. If you've got, if you've got this paper it's something more than the average person. And so then when I got it, and the Korean War was on and I was of draft bait, things sort of worked out, because there was no job to be had. And then sort of the interval before I got drafted by the army for the Korean War, I was a draftsman for Boeing, because I got a part-time right before I got drafted.

And so I came back and got my teaching certificate and continued on and became a art teacher. And my second love was physical education -- which I minored in P.E. -- and to think that I've attained both levels, the arts and coaching and get to continue on my art. I always maintained the art was my real focal part of my direction or if anything, that was my priority. Coaching was sort of an extra -- if I attained it, fine, if I didn't, I wasn't going to be hurt. But to feel that I was able to be -- to fulfill my dreams as being a teacher and a coach and continue my arts and be happy with it, and successful with it -- I feel real grateful, because some people don't get their dream at all. They only work and succeed and that's it. They might succeed in their own way, maybe financially, materially or whatever. But I think mine was deep-seated in terms of self-fulfillment goals that were achieved.

And when you reach a goal that you always hope for, or even get an opportunity to work at... you know, a lot of people, at least Nikkei, never had that chance and I feel I got more than my share and I feel grateful about that and... so I guess to be not morbid about this, but if something happened to me now, I would say I have no regrets. I have such good memories and I have such good feelings about myself and my children, and that they're healthy and that, that's kind of the thing that I feel good about. And I have one grandchild, at least I have one, some don't have any. So, you know, if you add the pluses and minuses, gee, as much as I feel sorry for myself with my aching hips and my back or whatever it might be, I've got a lot to be grateful for. But that's what I think, getting back to what I'm talking to you about, the fact that getting involved with this interview process. I hope to think that you could be not just a saddened Nikkei person that wants to say his story, but there's people like me, I'm sure, which you're gonna talk to who are happy with themselves, what they got involved in, and to continue, and to offer themselves to the process here.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

LH: Well, it's interesting you say that because I've read in a recent article that some of the younger generation don't feel that, themselves as being Nikkei, but that isn't what they called "war-driven" anymore. That means that they don't feel that their identity is really even linked to World War II and the history of their grandparents, their parents, or I guess great-grandparents as well. How would you respond to that?

FF: I would say that, that they're mistaken. 'Cause no matter what, history is gonna be part of the memories that they're going to have to deal with, 'cause if something happens in terms of racism or anti-Japaneseism or whatever it might be, I don't know. But the point is they're gonna have to face up to the fact that they're not part of the mainstream. Sure, if they're succeeding and doing, doing their thing. Inevitably they could be non-worldly, it could be, like say if I'm a Nikkei, maybe Yonsei CEO who's driven to be a top-notch business person, and then I'm dealing with underlings who may be "the majority" who I'm in charge of. And if they don't like you, the issue of color is going to come up, that, "I don't want to work for a person of color, or a Jap," or whatever. And I think that issue always comes up because when it comes to economy and time of, our lifetime, any time it hurts the pocket book of the establishment, so to speak, your ethnicity comes to the fold. And I think the young kids going to have to deal with that. And it's gonna hit them, but that's why I think it's so important that maybe myself being involved with this project, where if they hear me out, it would make sense that they be proud of what you are, 'cause you're never gonna lose it, and you know more about it. My good friend, who's a history instructor at the college, at Seattle Central Community College, Dan Peterson, who's a top-notch historian, he always said, "History teaches you to make the right decisions." And you know, there's a lot to that. And I always liked the guy, 'cause he always thinks highly of the Japanese Americans. In fact, sometimes I think he overdoes it where he might say, "Hey, Tom Yamamoto, why can't you be like your sister, you know, top notch student and sharp?" And I get mad at him for saying, don't try to bag us into one in terms of succeeding just because their ethnicity or brotherly and sister, take them individually, but I'm glad you think that way. But they could turn off by that. Don't turn them off, that's all I'm saying.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

LH: Just a few more questions. I want to go to your life after you got your degree and starting teaching at Franklin. What was it like for you to be a Japanese American teacher in this high school where you have a very diverse population? And what was that like, especially at the time?

FF: Well, to me, at Franklin was ideal, because we were, actually at that time, we were one-third Asian, one-third black, and one-third white. And I think that was the most beautiful time of my teaching career, and I enjoyed it very much, 'cause as I came to Franklin I felt real strong about, you know, being part of the community, being part of the scenario. And I really felt this was my niche. I really -- and then to be asked to come to be an assistant basketball coach at the time, and then to convert into the head coach job -- I felt real fortunate. And I think that, that opportunity was very special. I really felt it was like a dream come true, 'cause I got to teach and coach. On that standpoint, I felt fortunate, and I think what it did for me was just -- when you think you found your niche, and you like the students, you still had to learn to deal with a lot of factors in teaching as I understood. I think you had to be sensitive to the minority scene, laterally speaking with the "other Asians," you know, the Cambodians, the Vietnamese, the Indochinese, the Chinese American, the Japanese Americans. And I really felt I learned a lot and I think that's what made my life probably more interesting to, to continue on in education, because that was so fulfilling and a challenge and to even be a coach and to succeed in handling minority kids to succeed and to use psychology to be what you want them to be, and to be proud and to... I think my values had to be sort of strong about what's right and wrong, because even the black students were very concerned about leadership, if I'm sensitive to the minority scene. And in the case of "blackism," of course, there's blacks and Asians, there was Asians on my team. The irony of that whole issue is that the black parents didn't give me a hard time. [Laughs] There was this one Asian, Nisei parent, that got on my case about their son not getting to play. Well, I had a nice talk, but I, I thought that was real funny, 'cause here I'm expecting whites or the blacks to get on my case, but it was a Nisei. But we worked it out. I still maintain my hold on what I felt my values and my direction was. It was sort of a test on my perseverance and attitudes of what I thought was right and wrong, and hopefully I think I made the right choices always, and never tried to get in a bad scenario of being with the community or the kids or... it was tough enough to teach and coach. But teaching was really fun for me.

One nice story about teaching is that when -- I could talk to you about the kid in -- Ruby Shu was a doctor, Ruby Inouye. Her son was taking my class, Evan, and he, he's a bright -- he went to Harvard and got his degree and everything and he, he went into, of all things, graphic arts after. His mother was thinking, "How come you didn't go into being a doctor or something?" "Well Mom, you're dealing with doctors, you gotta deal with illnesses, and people that need help. But when I took Mr. Fujii's art class," he said, "he made it seem so much fun that I wanted to get into something I wanted to have fun at." And I thought that was so funny. I said, "Gee Dr. Ruby, you're not mad at me 'cause your son went into" -- I had no choice, I had no control over that. And I think that made me feel real good that someone of his stature who was real bright, and Harvard grad and who became, who went into graphics. He, I think he was in ethnic studies and then he was in architecture, architecture as well, but mostly the academia of architecture and graphics, that was his combination basically. But, but he's a pretty fine kid. Married and have children and I'm proud but... no, Dr. Ruby didn't hold it against me, but I think at the time, she really wished he would have been a doctor, I guess, and he could have been, I'm sure. He's quite a bright kid.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

LH: Well, what do you think that your experience in terms of being in the camps -- how did you translate that into being a teacher, and how'd that affect your -- the way you dealt with the class?

FF: I don't think it helped me in my teaching. I think it helped in my character, it helped me in my dealing with new people, I think it helped me in survival and developing sensitivities that I probably wouldn't have seen or gotten through seeing hardships through your parents. 'Cause you focus on that when... you know, when you're living a real, "the practical, natural life," if you want to call it that, you don't see the hardship that the parents go through. But when you live with that hardship, and the question marks about feelings and attitudes and -- that makes it, it magnifies it for me that, you see your mother crying in the corner of the barracks in internment camp and you kind of wonder, "How come she's crying?" I asked my sister, she said, "You dummy, she's just lonely and she doesn't feel happy here." But she won't talk of it, of course, Mom never... and if you asked a question she, she doesn't reply, and she just kind of mull over it a little bit. But she never expound on it because it's hard to talk in Japanese about a lot of the personal. She understood English to some degree, and Dad did, too, but I think it, it was hard.

But I think the whole scenario of camp and meeting new friends and all the question marks about survival -- and I like to think of it in the positive sense, too, that when all this experience makes your values, it strengthens your values as you get older and which, when I did, I think that helped me in my teaching, my decision-making, and getting along with people. And I'm forgiving in a lot of ways. I think I'm, I'm a soft touch in a lot of ways, and yet I'm strong about opinions of attitudes of people. If I don't like it, I don't tell them so, but I don't have to like them or I don't have to go along with the crowd, so to speak. So I think camp life -- and it also made me say to myself, "I'll never forget." Some might want to forget. I'm one of the Nikkei persons who will say I'll never forget the experience, because what I think it's done to my parents and what it's done psychologically to my parents and myself, and the insecurity that it's brought upon everybody in the family and, and the whole Nikkei scene, scenario. I think it's, it had to affect you. I mean, I get upset when some Niseis will talk of, "Yeah, we had a good time, we played baseball, we had good time, had dances," and you know, forgetting the fact that sensitivities of seeing the parents. I think that part, they missed the boat, they missed the sensitivity, they missed the things that build your character. I don't, if it did me, but I like to think it did. I was sensitive enough to say, "Hey, there's something wrong here," and yet you do the best you can. But don't expound on the fact that the camp is such a, was a pleasant... sure, for teenagers like myself, sure it was. But there's a lot of things that go along with hardship and loneliness, and doubt, which that, have all accumulated for the Isseis and Niseis when we came out of camp. So, but like I said, I think it's made me a better person and I think we're kidding ourselves. If you lived such a perfect life, you're not going to be sensitive normally, you're gonna expect things to go your way and so when you don't have things go your way, you make the best of it and, and you learned a lot about hardships and you could come back.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

FF: And if the Nikkei scenario could... it does prove a point that hey, there's a lot of us who, there's a younger Nikkei group of kids who graduated from college and did well, became doctors, and what have you, lawyers. And I think that's the beautiful part of it. At least you contributed, but for those professionals or, well, it could be any, it don't have to be a professional, but I really think it's important, that it should be mandatory that parents be sensitive enough to talk of the past, talk of the hardships and talk of what the internment has done, talk of the sadness. Because what it does, and I think you always will say to yourself if you're going up in a nice light if you're a doctor, you're not going to always say, well, that well, my parents, they just suffered a little bit, but, you know, I made it. No, I think they should be more sensitive than that. They should be grateful for where they're at. Because of the parents, who were giving and what have you. And I like to think that a lot of the Nikkeis are so proud of their offsprings who achieved a lot academically, and if not even academically, I don't think that word is... where you gotta have this Phi Beta Kappa key and be a Phi Beta. I think there's more to life than that, too. Obviously I wasn't a Phi Beta Kappa or anything, but I like to think that because of being "the general academia" kind of person, B average kind of person that hey, there's nothing wrong with that. You know, I think it's... I've succeeded and I, I think I got through it all and when I went for my advanced degree to think that -- never thought the day that I would be saying yeah, I want to work for my masters. Never thought I'd have that opportunity, or to even say I would do it. And then to do it and then achieve it, I felt, hey, this is all right. And I let my kids know 'cause they were born then, I mean, they were, when I worked, they were in their, oh let's see, they must have been about eight or nine years old when I got my master's. And I told them I'm so proud and so happy and you know, I wanted them to know that I just celebrated, I had parties and everything, and they said, "Hey, this is fun, Dad." And I wanted them to know that those hardships and struggles that I been through has been worth it all, and that if they did, they should be happy.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

FF: 'Cause you know, your master's wasn't exactly -- I got my teaching certificate already, but when I got my master's, it was after I was teaching already so it was still a stepping stone to say, to build up on your self-esteem. So if anything, I'd like to pass, not getting master's, to say that's the secret. It's to say to have stepping stones to, to improve yourself, or to feel good about yourself, not other people. I mean, I didn't get my master's for my wife or for my kids. I basically had to do it for myself, 'cause they're not gonna to take the test for me, or they're not gonna write my thesis for me. I think that part of it, I hope to, or hope, rather, that I have expounded on that issue with my kids enough that they might translate that into what they want to do or what they are achieving or whatever. Because even to say what if they're not going to become academic people, no, that's okay. Ann went to college and got her degree, but Susie hasn't. And I think to be a good parent takes a heck of a lot and I think, I'm so proud that she could be this caring, loving mother. I would say if anything, "You're a good mom." Isn't that saying a lot, 'cause it is. 'Cause when Mich, my wife and I had the girls, she was a professional, she could have gone to work as a CPA and made better money than me, but I was old-fashioned. I said, "Hey, I want you to stay home with the kids and give them the care and love, and take care of them," and to me, that was important to me. And I'm glad I did. So... and she felt that, too, it wasn't a forced issue.

But all this camp experience, like I said, going back to what you were saying that -- yeah, it's, it's shaped my whole goal setting in a sense because I see -- well, at my age, you start to sort of know what you're good at. I felt I was good at athletics. My academia kind of inched up a little bit when I jumped from seventh to ninth grade, thinking that I'm a genius, which I wasn't. But that was okay. I felt good about myself, and to see my former Seattle people who haven't seen me since Puyallup to say, "Hey, you mean you're in the soph-, I mean, you're a junior now? I thought you were a sophomore." I said well, gritting my teeth and just kind of smiling and saying, "Well, I skipped," and kind of implying my great, great intelligence. But I thank my brother Daibo for that. He, he was always academic and he had a way of teaching me without forcing me or making me feel dumb. And I think when I, I mentioned it in his eulogy, in his funeral, I mentioned that, what he was to me. 'Cause his being the older brother who offered me something was as a model was not athletic, it was something a little bit more important. And I guess some people were surprised I would put that first, because usually I would say sports because of the accolades, and accomplishment. But when I had mentioned Daibo who helped me and to realize my worth intellectually in a sense, that to me is -- I found to be more important than the models of being, having brothers who are great at athletics or sports. Because you don't think of this other part being important, but as you get older you say yeah, he was really special. I know his wife appreciated that comment when I gave that light eulogy at the funeral, and because... and then sometimes I wish I would have said that to the wife but maybe there wasn't a time to, 'cause who am I to say I know when he's gonna pass away or you know, whatever. But I'm glad I was able to say that so that the people that knew him, his level of age level could hear me say that. And so I was pleased.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

LH: Well, going back again to your sort of -- moving off from your teaching to more to your coaching experiences and stuff like that, how do you think that was sort of, was affected by your life and how do you feel that your coaching really sort of...

FF: Well, that was icing on the cake to get coaching. I always was happy in teaching, but to get, to be, be called over to the high school to be the assistant coach was happiness in itself, but not knowing that I would have the opportunity to become head coach. But when I did, I didn't realize how big a deal it was. It was when I got the coaching job and the newspaper says, "Fujii appointed head basketball coach at Franklin High School," then I said, "Holy man, what am I gonna do?" This is lot of pressure now. 'Cause here I was just staying on the side as assistant and just yelling and screaming, but now, I gotta have a little bit dignity and make the right decisions. And so when I took over, I gotta have the right rhetoric to talk to the team. But I already knew, 'cause I already had been assistant to the first, third and second team, and counseled some of the varsity guys. But then, you know, it's a different bag when you take over the reins. But I always knew art was my main bag, so it wasn't like putting all my eggs in one basket, I didn't want to say coaching was to be my forte. It was to say coaching is part of my life, but not my whole life, teaching was number one and art was number one and then coaching.

And so in my mind, I said, don't be shook up if you're not successful. And first year, it wasn't successful. Four wins, seventeen losses, but you know, I had more nice parties because of defeat. But I had good parties and good times and good memories but since, once you -- the year after that, everything zoomed and we won Southern division three times and city championship once and to me, we started to really roll, and I was pleased, but there was more pressure that way. But to be the first Nikkei, or Nisei in, in Seattle at the time to be a triple, at the time, AAA high school team and the school being 1,500-plus students. And I was real proud, and yet I felt the pressure because I didn't want to be the first Nisei where that, that pride kicks in where you say if another Nisei is hired and I'm a failure, I'm not gonna hire that guy, 'cause if you don't make it look good, or at least be worthy of your position you know, they're not gonna get that opportunity.

So yeah, I wanted to succeed, but not -- to be perfectly honest, never did I put that dream of being the head, I mean, being the championship coach. I thought if I could reach close to that, I'd be happy. But then to win the city championship one year, that was my last year of my high school life. It was quite something. I think that pride, the... I didn't think I had to prove anymore. I felt exhausted, but I loved coaching. 'Cause it was a test on not how great a player you were, or how much you knew about plays. It's about how you handle the kids and their attitude and there's so many factors people don't realize. And to mold the kids without feeling upset and to, to psych them out to be a team member and, and to be, to cherish a lot of the good memories of victory. And I really felt that was really a milestone for me, and to win the city champion. Then I found out that there was many people who used to come to my games, who were the older Niseis. They never told me they came to my games, and I'm not going to look up in the crowd to see who's there. And I think, to me, that made me feel good because, not that I cared, but to find out later after I coached that they used to be at my games and I used to think, "Gee how nice," you know.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

FF: But yeah, coaching was a nice test and it's, it was a successful test, and yet I felt I didn't need any more of it because my kids and I... I missed -- you know, when you coach, there's a tendency to being on your ego trip about the press calling you about your team and then you're away from the family and you gotta go scout and you gotta write scouting reports and, you know, I was selfish in a lot of ways, but then at the same time, I thought of my wife and my kids, and I said hey, do I need to prove any more? And then when just by chance the college called and said, "Hey, we need you to get into administrative position and it's your alley, graphics and media," and I thought oh, maybe this is my time. And when my wife said, "You're gonna what? You're gonna let this all go?" And I said, well... but she was so happy that it's my decision, it wasn't hers, or rather, we didn't even confer, she was just happy that I was making the decision. 'Cause I think I would have felt bad if, not bad, she would have felt bad if I went to the college and was unhappy, which I was -- [laughs] -- because the politics of it all. But I learned and I think when you get older, you start to learn to adjust on the college level and the games-playing, the politics. It was something new to me, but I paid my dues. And I think that's why when my wife got into the community and worked for the state government on the board of tax appeal, she was chairperson, I was real proud of her and it was her turn. I said, "You do what you want to and I'll be the homebody, I'll be the one who makes the hamburger only at night," and she couldn't stand that. But I think the whole issue was reversed and it was time for me to support her and I felt good about that. And I think that's where our relationship was so strong that... and I was so proud of her, 'cause she, she loved this job working with Governor Booth Gardener and I didn't want to ever let that go, where she felt that she's letting the family go. 'Cause she worked late and I said, "Come late when you want to and I'll pick up food," or -- and she couldn't stand my cooking -- so I usually pick up food or my kids might drop something over or... and I thought that issue of it all, I feel, I feel fortunate that we both had that self-esteem kind of episode in your lifetime. And a lot of Nikkeis don't and I'm, I'm not saying that they should or they should've or, it's to say we're one of the lucky ones. And I think both of us. So even now, after she's gone, I think we both have said to each other, even on her deathbed, she, we said we have no regrets. No matter what we did, we always felt that we did it 'cause we wanted to and it worked out and we never put a big wrench onto the scene that we wish we could continue on 'cause things worked out for us. And I think when it does, we're real grateful. So it, it was nice.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

LH: Well, I just have a few more questions for you. Just going back, I guess to -- you've talked about teaching, and you've talked about your coaching -- and I guess the one thing we haven't really touched on is your art. And sort of how your art has developed and how you've been working on that in the last couple of years, few years, and how that's actually developing? How do you feel when you think about the kind of art that you do?

FF: Yeah, in high school when I was teaching art I taught a lot of techniques and I even used my tell -- I taught my students my techniques that I... you know, some teachers, students will say -- who were good in art -- would say, "How come Mr. Fujii teaches us his secrets?" And I said, "So what? You're not gonna be the same. I could tell you everything what to do but it's never gonna be same." And so I make them do projects and where I use the same technique and it doesn't even look like my stuff. So I said, "That's okay." But I think because of that teaching specific projects and variety, I never found my own niche. So until I finished teaching high school and then I even taught as a mid-management person at the college, I even taught the art classes. We all had to teach one class, and I taught creative painting techniques, and I enjoyed that. And so when you teach that, I think there's a tendency to do different specific techniques and style, not still finding my own niche. But now that I'm on my own now and retired, there's a, you know, I'd like to think I found a niche. It took a while, because it's been eight years since I retired from the college and I felt that I really found a technique or an identity in my work that you could say, after you've seen my stuff that you would say, "Hey, that's a Fujii." And I like that. And then I, I'm saying I'm trying to attain something like that -- at least it's a goal. Rather than to say you're an artist that just does artwork, I think the artist himself has to have some type of specific goals of achieving to, for identity. 'Cause that's, that's what you always hope for. But most teachers, though, like my buddy Bill Mair, who's a art teacher and a college teacher, he always goes in college, never goes in high school, but he, he even says that. And I think to, to have this identity is important -- to me -- and as we compare ourselves with -- no, I shouldn't say compare -- as I talk to Paul Horiuchi about what he thought of his artwork, his identity. He says something very interesting -- that you could see all the Horiuchis in his house and he's not too happy -- and I'm saying, "How can you say it that when you've got some good stuff?" But when you put these art works separately into someone's house it looks completely different and I'm saying, boy, that's true. Instead of like, right now I'm looking at three or four of my artwork that's much alike, it doesn't look that good together. But when you separate it and put it in a specific house in a specific place, it's very special. It took me a while to kind of understand that.

So, that has been sort of my forte at the, my years as I'm getting older to find, and, like I said, even at my age, to still be setting goals or trying to achieve a level of importance to my life. I think art has been, always been by my side. It's been a great release for me, plus a consolement, very... the creativity of it, I've enjoyed that 'cause I like to think I'm creative and... that creativity has even, is a bounce-off, where it's a, you could bounce things like even coaching. When you're creative, you try different kinds of crazy things just to see if it works and even coaching, I even tried -- just to back up a little here -- that I tried different kind of defenses and some coaches would say to me after a game, "What kind of defense were you trying there, Fujii?" He says, "You got three guys going over here, another guy over here." I says, "That's my secret." And I try it and I could chuckle to myself because we might have barely won the game, or lost the game, but they couldn't figure me out. And I'd say, "Hey, that's cool because yeah, I didn't win the city championship that year, but I was able to do some creative things even at that level."

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

FF: And coaching has been such an inspiring thing because see, you're not teaching academia, you're talking about talent, and to mold that, to be a teacher that molds that. I thought that was real key. And I was not going to be this jock who thinks he's a hotshot player of the past, or a guy that knows lots of plays, but just molding the mentality of what their level is, and take 'em at that level and achieve a specific goal. And I think when you do that, if you're real good... I feel not very many Nikkei or Niseis have done that. They have now, there's a lot of coaches in California who are Niseis, or rather Sanseis, Yonseis who are coaches and doing well. I'm proud of that, but I think, I think our nature lends itself for that, I really think -- that's where I think "Nikkeism" has been a plus. Because for some reason kids want trust, they want sincerity, they want direction, they want consistency and I think those things you gotta have, I think, when you coach. Because if you start being demanding about, "Well, you're never gonna be a pro, you're never gonna be a college star" -- you don't talk like that. I know there's coaches that do that, but I've always been practical and I've always, never gave false hope... so I have no regrets to talk to some of them of the past who might come to talk to me, and not say, "Yeah, you told me I was going to be a pro," or something. Never, never. I always tell them, "Yeah, you show me that you're all-city material plus you're academic and go to four years college and get your degree. Yeah, then I'll, I'll believe you," and whatever. So I feel real lucky. My memories, I could still remember so many funny things and good things about coaching.

Let me just say this one thing. When we won city championship, there was one brother who, whose family of thirteen came to see me, and he was sort of a big monstrosity of a guy and his supposedly bodyguard and he says, "Yeah, we're celebrating in the locker room with 7-Up," or whatever it was. And he says, "I want Fuj, to talk to coach Fujii." And I said -- someone said, "Coach Fujii, yeah, okay. Well, tell him to come in." He says, "No, he wants to talk to you outside." I said, gee, what could this be? It couldn't be something bad, because we had won Seattle City, Seattle City Championship. He came and then he shook my hand real tightly and he says, "You know what, Fuj?" and I said, "What?" And he says, "My brother Lester has... and none of the thirteen in our family ever won anything in their life and to win the city championship and see him up there holding the trophy with you guys, it meant," gee, I was touched. And I thought, "Wow." And I thought that was a great story because this kid wasn't the most... he was, had kind of a criminal record. Not a bad one, but juvenile record, should I say. And for him to be part of this championship team and his brother, who's, I won't know his background, but I know he's someone important in the community, but for him to shake my hand and said it with tears in his eyes. He says boy, he was so proud and I thought, to me those are the things that make it worthwhile, you know, coaching. And I think the trophy, yeah. But trophies can be forgotten, but memories of people and the pluses of feeling and for me to say to my brothers and sisters that hey, I'm proud and happy. I couldn't be any luckier. Many were upset with me because I quit coaching, but I said, you know, I don't want to be at Franklin when your children, children's children come there and say, "You mean you're Mr. Fujii that I had, my father had you?" I didn't want that. But no, I wanted to move on. I wanted to try, and different things... so things have worked out for me and I feel... I always, so far, like to think that I've made the right decisions, and I think my wife would concur on that, 'cause she never really said, "Do this or do that," or, "Did you do, did you think about this or did you think?" No... she usually, we, we talked about it but she always left it up to me. So that, that's what a good relationship was all about. And for what we're worth, we, like I say, we have no regrets that way.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

LH: Well, I just want, I guess, say thank you for the interview. I'm sort of done with my questions. Is there anything else that you'd like to add in terms of, sort of, as way to finish off and talk about what people can learn from this and...

FF: Yeah, I just feel that the reason for my interest in this whole project was -- I'm flattered that Densho Project got me involved. But I think the whole issue is to say that many of us, I'm sure Niseis who have, would have an opportunity to talk and to contribute to say, to other Nikkei population -- whether young or old -- that we got a lot more to, that we have contributed more than people realize. Plus our isms are, that we all have older and the younger Nisei I think have been a plus for the younger Nikkei kids, who are independent and who make decisions on their own. But we gotta let them make the decisions on their own based on what they hear from us, but if we don't contribute to that issue of what's important and historically in the past, we are kidding ourselves by saying, "Suppress it and forget it," 'cause we don't want, and it's bad memories. Hey, bad memories can be a plus, too. And I think this issue about internment camps and about the psychological impact has left upon Nikkeis -- I like to think there's a lot of us Niseis who've been in the different levels of experience of what they have to offer to their kids and to the younger Nikkei population. Hey, that history is key. I think it's to be proud of, because I still feel that proudness, even of the younger ones, because I see the younger ones more adjusted. They don't have a lot of cultural hang-up, but then I wish they sort of would, but then I think you can't have no control over that. I think you do it the way each parent would want you to be.

But this kind of a project would probably lend itself for better educational media to, to get across to the younger folks for history purpose, or for referral, for making their way through the cobwebs of their life. And I think when I hear my brothers and people that I've met who have been in camp incarcerated in different camps -- 'cause Tule Lake, as you know, had people from all the different camps, Granada, Poston, Heart Mountain, Topaz. All those different camps, and I got to know many of them and they have different slants and different ideas, and different sadnesses, different impact on their life. And I met some even after camp, and when I went for Tule Lake reunion in the '70s it was amazing. Some are real bitter, some are ultra bitter, some are so-so, some want to forget. And I don't know how to deal with that issue, how to reach those people. But for even the ones who are bitter, if we as a composite program of what Densho's offering them -- if they could see that and learn from that, I think that would be great, because it might relieve them of some of the hang-ups they have, because they were... as much as you may have been insignificant, I think you could still teach your kids humility and be proud and all kind of things about the cultural differences of what Japanese Americans are all about. So I just hope that this vehicle would be a way to reach the Nikkeis really, that's just... whether through this media or just through workshop, conferences, I don't know. But I'm happy. I'm happy to be part of it. But whether to say how it will affect or to be used, you never know. But I think this is the right direction and I think... 'cause like the people you will be interviewing, I'm sure, are gonna have different philosophies, slants, background and, which makes it nice. So anyways, thank you for letting me be part of this whole scenario here.

LH: Well, thank you for helping us out, and we appreciate it.

FF: Thank you.

LH: Thank you.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.