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-02-0002

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JD: Were there many Japanese American families in Moses Lake?

JH: There were none.

JD: Yours was the only one.

JH: Well, no, there was a group of us that went. The Sakumas, the Kobas, the Shibayamas, the Sekos, the Haruis, went to this farm. And I don't know how they managed to do this, but... and to this day I don't know whether they leased it or bought it. I'll talk to you about Mr. Shibayama later on, but he was an integral part of why we were there. But anyway, the pain still is there. That was your question, I think. Still there, and what's happening to Iran and Iraq and those countries, I can see where it's gonna happen there, too. It already has. And so it's rather poignant that the memorial garden is there. The facilities are there, and there's a lesson to be learned by everyone that visits, and I think it's wonderful that we're able to construct such a beautiful place.

JD: I know everybody on Bainbridge Island feels that way. It's the most remarkable place. And we hear about how people would go there and just spend the day appreciating and enjoying the garden that your parents built, and it still has that same quality, I think. It's a very, it's like a center of life and the plants...

JH: It certainly is, yes.

JD: Were you, did you maintain any contact with friends on Bainbridge Island when you were in Moses Lake?

JH: Oh, no, no, I was too young even to know about the post office.

JD: Do you think your parents, did they manage to...

JH: No, I don't think so, because they spoke Japanese and read Japanese but they didn't, which they could do in the mail, but they were too busy involved in getting things organized. They were hard workers, and what we did in Moses Lake was we farmed, and various people would come by and they would talk about what to plant, and there was that act of kindness. But initially, the younger men mostly were the Koba brothers. They were in their late teens and early twenties, and they asked for jobs, and they got very bad response. Said, "No, I don't want no Jap working for me." But finally one of 'em got a job on a farm, and he proved himself. So all of a sudden labor was really hard to get at that time, during the war period. All of a sudden everybody wanted these young, hardworking Japanese boys to work on the farms. And they finally got jobs in various farms and proved themselves, that they're not the enemy, and they're not dangerous.

JD: These were all the sons of families who had moved east of the mountains.

JH: That's correct, yeah.

JD: Did they farm with machinery at that point? Did they have fuel?

JH: Yes, there was machinery, there was fuel, there were tractors. Well, there had to be because they were immense farms.

JD: Were they farming wheat primarily?

JH: No, we raised onions and potatoes and corn. [Laughs] During the school vacation period in the summer they sent me out in the farms. Just to show the enormity of the farms, I was told to weed a row of corn down this way. And when I was done, I had a suntan on one side. [Laughs] So it was quite an experience. We had, I think, some of the first Mexican laborers that came to the farms in Moses Lake, they must have come from Mexico, but they were recruited because of lack of labor. I remember -- this is a very racial statement, but I remember my younger brother... in fact, let me back up a little bit. Along with the Mexicans were some black laborers. And one of 'em cut his hand, and my younger brother said, "My gosh, his blood is red." It sounds kind of funny at that time, but it was a lesson learned. You can read a lot into that statement. We learned a little bit about culture, differences in culture with these laborers working for us. And then there were some that were slacking off, but my dad was, when we raised potatoes, we would have a belt with some nails on it, and you hooked a bag, you pulled the paraphernalia with your feet and your hands, and you put the potatoes in the bags, in the burlap bags. And that made you very strong, because I was just a kid then. And then one of the days, the foreman says, "Hey, there's a guy over there slacking off, why don't you go over there and show him how to sack potatoes?" And I'm sweating to beat the, trying to make myself go ahead of him, and I remember that experience. It was just kind of meaningful, too.

JD: You were probably ten or eleven years old?

JH: That's right.

JD: And did you have a potato fork that you'd dig 'em out?

JH: No, what they did is they dug it up by tractor, and you'd follow behind with this sack between your legs, throwing the potatoes in the bag.

JD: Did you beat him?

JH: Yeah, I did. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.