Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Junkoh Harui Interview
Narrator: Junkoh Harui
Interviewer: John DeChadenedes
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: February 3, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-hjunkoh-02-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

JD: Maybe we could start by talking about what you remember of your family life in the early '40s before the war and before 1942.

JH: Well, I think we had a great life. At least from my perspective it was great, because we had all these wonderful things around surrounding us. You know, the bay here, Fletcher Bay, fish or dig clams or whatever it is. And then we would, it was more wooded in those days, and we used to have a wood trail that came to Fletcher Bay park there. And I was always the tail end because I didn't have a bike and I had to run after my brothers because they had bikes. I always remember that. [Laughs] But it was a wonderful time for us young kids, 'cause we didn't have the materialism that there is today. We took what nature gave us and played with it, and go fishing and clam digging, all those things. I thought it was a great life. We didn't have any worries. The only worry we had was when do we start dinner again. But here was a gift of God, all these wonderful, natural toys if you will. And as I can recall, it was the best part of my life.

JD: One thing that's hard for me to imagine is how your parents were able first to establish a farm and then to build Bainbridge Gardens. The amount of work that they must have done to clear the land and begin growing plants, it's very difficult, I think, for modern people to image how they could have accomplished that.

JH: Well, they say that 24/7 is a new term that people are saying about people who spend twenty-four hours, seven days a week. That was their life. And they had laborers that helped 'em not only conceive, but turn out a wonderful nursery of yesteryear. It was the grand workings of several people, many, many people as a matter of fact. I had that same experience when I rebuilt Bainbridge Gardens. It seems that everything just seemed to float perfectly, and one thing would follow another. It was the easiest thing we could ever have done is to rebuild Bainbridge Gardens. Because it has such an aura of history and a tremendous legacy as far as plants and the environment. It was a wonderful time.

JD: This is when you came back, when the family came back from Moses Lake?

JH: That's right.

JD: How old were you then?

JH: Let's see, '46, I was twenty-three years old.

JD: One thing that interests people a lot is how the Japanese American community felt at the beginning of the war, when Japan entered the war and they suddenly realized that their situation was completely different. It'd be very interesting to hear more about what you know about how your parents reacted to that and how they were able to make the decision to move east rather than waiting the way some families did.

JH: Well, fortunately or unfortunately, I wasn't aware that war had even started when I was in school. I recall one day one of the teachers took me out of the class, says, "Junkoh" -- that's me -- "you need to go to a certain bus." And I was scared to death. I thought I had done something wrong. But all it was was a call to the Japanese American students to get on buses and eventually go to the ferry dock where they departed. And that was a rather traumatic situation for me because all through our young lives, our parents said education is number one, and respect is number two. And so I felt real bad because I didn't remember doing anything wrong. It was a rather traumatic moment. Unfortunately, as I say, maybe it was fortunate, I didn't really realize that there was a war started from Japan. Our parents sheltered us in terms of all these harmful things. Or they were too busy to acknowledge that we would be interested that there was a war, and even if they did say that there's a war, I don't know what the reaction would be from us. But I didn't experience the actual trauma of what happened, and obviously it's just a terrible trauma.

JD: Did your mother and father ever speak to you later about how that affected them?

JH: No. As a matter of fact, they didn't. I didn't know that there was a war with Japan until we got to Moses Lake and we went to the school.

JD: You heard from teachers or from other students that now the U.S. was at war with... and did they say, "with your people"? Did they think of you as... did you experience discrimination?

JH: Well, that conversation never did come about. I just absorbed it from what I learned in school. There was a principal of the school who uttered some phrases with "Japs" in it, and I'll always remember that. But that was one of the first contacts I had about American being at war with Japan.

JD: Did that sense that you might have done something wrong, did that stay with you? That you said you had when you were sent home from school?

JH: Well, yes it did. I had a very troublesome situation when I went to Moses Lake, particularly in the school. There was this guy that I can remember his name but I won't repeat it, would pick me out and beat the hell out of me every morning. He was a couple grades older than I was, and he was a big guy to begin with. I distinctly remember that he took me into this pit, and he would beat me up, and all surrounding this pit was all the other students quietly watching. Nobody objected. So that stuck with me and still does. It wasn't fun. Not only that, we played "War" in which, you can always remember which side I was on. And during the winter, there were rocks in the snowballs, and that was no fun either.

JD: I remember that from my childhood. Some kids would put rocks in the snowballs and really try and hurt you.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.