Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Frank Kitamoto Interview
Narrator: Frank Kitamoto
Interviewer: John DeChadenedes
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: April 14, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-kfrank-02

[Ed. note: Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

JD: Let's start with some family information and background stuff. Could you begin by telling us the name of your parents and where they were born and so on?

FK: My father was Frank Yoshito Kitamoto. He was born in Watsonville, California, in 1900. My mother is Shigeko Nishinaka Kitamoto, and she was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1906.

JD: What kind of work did they do?

FK: My dad actually worked for Friedlander's Jewelry before the war as a salesperson. He used to sell rings to Japanese sailors on their ships and things like that, and, and to different people. My mom was always, kinda worked on the farm. The farm that we live on now was purchased by my grandfather in 1917, and my mother and father bought it from him when he went back to Japan in 1935. So she's kinda always run the farm. My dad kind of helps out on weekends.

JD: Can you tell us about your brothers and sisters?

FK: My oldest sister is Lilly Kodama. My next sister, who's three years older than I am -- my oldest sister's five years older than I am -- is Frances Ikegami. And my youngest sister is Jane Akita, who's two years younger than I am. And they... Jane passed away about three years ago.

JD: What did your parents farm? What did they grow?

FK: I think my grandfather used to kinda have like vegetables and some berries. I know he planted asparagus and potatoes and stuff like that... lettuce. After the war, [clears throat] -- excuse me -- my mother had strawberries, currants, and then eventually ended up farming mostly with raspberries... some loganberries, some Olympic berries, but mostly raspberries.

JD: Were most of the Japanese American farmers on Bainbridge in, originally in produce and then ended up growing berries? Or is that just following what the markets wanted?

FK: Well, no, I really think most of them were probably in berries, pretty heavily in berries, mainly strawberries. That was the big crop before the war. My mother was an unusual person. She was having trouble getting pickers for strawberries 'cause she was competing with everybody else, so she decided, "Ah ha, I'll plow up these strawberries and plant raspberries 'cause that's the season after strawberries." So she would have pickers stay over after they got done with their strawberries, to pick raspberries. And then when the raspberry plants started getting kinda old, she started plowing those up and planted Christmas trees, switched to tree farming.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

JD: Can you describe a little bit about your family's day-to-day life before the war?

FK: Well I was pretty young, 'cause I was born in '39. But, I... because my father commuted to town most of the time and my mother did most of the farming, I think we probably socialized more with the people in the immediate area and not too much with other farmers. 'Cause I think... I don't remember going to any big, you know, get-togethers... other families and all that kinda stuff. Although there were some families that we did get together with. And I know there's some early pictures of, like the Nakatas and the Haruis and so forth, being in our yard, so I'm sure they did that. I know they dug a lot of clams, picked, picked a lot of seaweed. In a lot of ways it was a staple. And there was a lot of fish around, so they did a lot of fishing, mostly for shiners and rock cod, rock cods. For fun... you don't have much time for fun when you're on a farm. I know even after the war, when I was going to school, I turned out for sports, but I never turned out for baseball 'cause that came during berry season. So I never was able to turn out for baseball. But I did turn out for football and basketball.

JD: You were on the football team?

FK: I was. Yeah.

JD: What position did you play?

FK: Linebacker and halfback. And if they... and if it was really bad I played middle guard on defense. [Laughs]

JD: Were there different groups among the Bainbridge Island Japanese American community? The farmers, the people who worked in town...

FK: You know, there weren't very many people that commuted to town so I think my father was pretty unusual, 'cause he'd go in on the ferry almost every day. I think most everybody else pretty much farmed on the island. Although there, there were like the Nakatas who had the grocery store business or the butcher business. And there were some commercial businesses on the island run by people of Japanese descent, but I'd say mainly most everybody was into farming.

JD: I'm assuming it was a pretty close-knit community, the Japanese Americans. But was there a lot of interaction with the white community also, white farmers or other...

FK: I think kids in school, you know, most of your friends were Caucasian, with the kids growing up and stuff. So I think that kids probably associated a lot with each other, but probably the families themselves probably didn't do a whole lot of things socially as far as the parents or the parents of the kids. I think high school kids really played a lot with each other, with people of other ethnic backgrounds and stuff. But, I, there would be a tendency probably to have most of your close friends being people of Japanese descent. But I know a lotta people who were in high school had a lot of close Caucasian friends, too. Which is interesting 'cause you would socialize, but as far as dating you probably wouldn't. It was probably some kind of an unwritten thing that you didn't date with each other. And if you did it was kind of like doing it on the sly or sneaking.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

JD: I'd like to talk about your family's relationship with Felix Narte and that whole family. Can you tell us when your parents first met Felix?

FK: Well, my understanding was Felix left the Philippines when he was pretty young, like in his teens. And went to Hawaii and worked there for a while in the pineapple fields. And then, and then came to the United... well, the mainland here mainly to find employment in Seattle for, in the cannery and stuff. And I have a feeling that he, he's kind of a free spirit and he probably didn't like working in the plantations very much. So he came over here, and I think they kind of followed seasonal work when the cannery wasn't going so they'd travel to different places like Eastern Washington or Central Washington to pick apples or whatever. And then come to Bainbridge Island when the berry season was over here. And I think he first started working for the Hayashidas and then eventually started working for my grandparents, my mother's parents. And when my father and mother purchased the farm from my grandfather when he went back to Japan, he continued to work for my, for my parents.

JD: How old was he, do you know?

FK: You know, Felix is the same age as my mother. So, he... you know, I know my, my mother was born in 1906, so he had to be in his... when he, when he worked on the farm he had to be in his early twenties, and, when he first started working for us, or working for my grandparents anyway.

JD: At that time, when your grandparents were farming, were there a lot of Filipino Americans on the island? And what was the relationship between the two communities?

FK: Yeah, I think most of the Filipino men on the island probably came in the mid-'20s or right around that time. And I think most of them were either thought of as workers or, or kind of like unofficial foreman for pickers that came and would work for the Japanese farmers in that capacity. Although they were probably close, I don't think they really saw each other as, as partners or something. They just were probably thought of as higher employees as far as working for the farms.

JD: How about you and your, your brother and sisters? You get along with Felix and any other Filipino Americans?

FK: Well, I think they're just part of our life growing up. Because we had this little house on, near, on our property that was called the Filipino house and all the Filipino men lived there, and when they worked on the farm and stuff. And I know I would... I remember when I was a kid -- this was after the war -- it was, it was, I'd, I'd row the boat while Felix took his fishing net out there and would throw his net to catch shiners. And I'd be rowing the boat backwards and he'd be on the back of the boat throwing his net and, and I remember him taking me out to catch tako, octopus, and -- [laughs] -- my eyes getting really big watching those suckers suck on his boots. But, you know, I think it was, in Felix's case with our family, it was really a close situation. 'Cause I know after my father passed away, Felix would always kind of stop in and make sure my mom was okay and all that. And he was, he was probably thought of more as a friend than, you know, somebody... I mean, he wasn't working for us anymore, but he'd always stop by and make sure everything was okay and would help my mother if she needed something plowed or something. And it was when he already had his own farm or was already working for the shipyard or whatever, so... so I know it was a close relationship. And even during the war they did come to visit us in concentration camp, which would be highly unusual for somebody not to do... to do something like that if, unless they were really close. 'Cause that photograph we have of, of Felix and our family was taken in, I think, Pocatello. So he had to come to Idaho to be in that picture with us.

JD: It sounds as if that might have been kind of an unusual situation for a Filipino American who was originally sort of hired labor to become such a close friend of the family. Do you have any idea why that happened particularly?

FK: I think he's just been with us, with the family for such a long time. He was just kind of thought of as family. I know in his later years, in my mother's later years, they would be... I'd come to the house and they'd be playing Chinese checkers. [Laughs] And, and I remember once my sister coming over to the house and not being able to find them. And was looking all over for them and looked up on the roof and there were these two eighty-year-olds sitting on top of the roof trying to decide what to do with a hole in the roof. And she said, "My God, if they had fallen off that ladder, who would have taken care of them?" [Laughs] So, they just had this special relationship, and, just, just, I think they were like brothers and sisters actually, 'cause they looked after each other.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JD: Maybe we could backtrack a little and talk about the war period and the internment. Starting with December 7, 1942, I assume you don't have personal memories of that, but what did your parents tell you about what happened then and what they felt about it?

FK: Yeah, you know, I don't, I don't have personal memories of that day. I know they didn't speak much about that until probably -- you know, we didn't start this oral history project with the island until the '80s, and my father had already passed away. It was... 'cause he passed away in '69. My mother at that time pretty freely talked about it, and I know she talked about how scary it was. Mostly because in early February the FBI came to the island and started arresting people without any trials or anything. I think out of the forty-five families of Japanese descent on the island, thirty-four people were arrested by the FBI. And out of those -- and they were sent to the immigration center on Dearborn -- and out of those thirty-four, my... I think thirteen were sent off to Justice concentration camp, and my father was one of those. He was sent to Missoula, Montana. Some of the other men were sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico, but he went to Missoula, Montana. So he wasn't with us when we went to... when we were removed from the island. My mother pretty much had to take care of the four kids and had to look after us without my father from February 'til March 30th when we left. And I think my father is a very unusual type person. He... a lot of Japanese men are thought of as being kinda meek and just following along, but he wasn't that type of person. He would really get mad. And I'm pretty sure he was kinda always angry about that happening because he didn't feel like there was any reason for him to be arrested. And I think my mom thought it was really scary. I remember her telling me that once she was at home with the four kids and changing Chiseko -- that's my sister Jane's Japanese name -- diaper. She said someone yelled at her through the bedroom window and said, "Pull the blinds. This is a blackout." And she said it scared her half to death that someone was standing right outside her window, as she said, spying on her, while she was changing Chiseko's diapers. 'Cause, you know, our farm... we didn't have very many close neighbors around. So it was 22 acres and not as many houses around there as there are now. So she said it really scared her, 'cause, since Dad had already been taken away. So it really scared her.

JD: Was the Missoula camp and the other one in Arizona, were those for a particular category of people judged to be a security risk or something?

FK: Yeah. They were Justice camps. So there were, I think, I don't know, about nine or ten Justice camps that were run by the Justice Department. And they were the places where people who were thought to be really security risks were taken. Mostly because... well, most, I think almost all of them were Issei or non-citizens or non-aliens, is what citizens were called. So my dad said he was born in Watsonville, California, but he couldn't prove it. He didn't have any records so he was probably considered an alien. And my mother said that she thought maybe he was under suspicion because he commuted to Seattle every day and because he was commuting every day he would take flowers for the greenhouses into Seattle. And most of the greenhouses are along Pleasant Beach and Rich Passage, and along through there, so that's where most of the ships going to Bremerton were. And also because he was selling rings to Japanese sailors, and, and she thought maybe that was why they might have rounded him up. But it could also have been because he was... couldn't prove he was a citizen, either, so...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JD: The family's... so your dad was already in camp in March, but can you say a little bit more about what you know about what happened to the men and families when FBI came to their homes and were searching and looking for evidence of disloyalty or whatever they thought they were doing?

FK: Again, this is mostly things I've heard when I've talked to different people, in doing our oral history projects and things. I know, I remember once talking to Tyke Nishimori who's passed away -- and he must have been in his late twenties at that time -- but he said... I asked him an entirely different question and then somehow we got on the FBI coming and he got so mad. He got really angry and started cussing and all this. And he said, "Those blankety-blank FBI guys," He said, "They came to our house and I told, 'Leave my father alone, he's just an old man. And if you're gonna take anybody, take me instead.'" And he said, and he just, just was so upset about that. And I knew he had these feelings that were still deep inside him as far as that happening. I remember when we were filming Snow Falling on Cedars, a P-I reporter was talking to Tyke and said to him, "Well, what do you remember about this day?" And Tyke just gave her this deathly stare and said, "I don't have any good memories about this day," and just walked away. So, and I know one person we tried to interview said that when the FBI -- I think it was Henry Terashita -- he said when the FBI came he stalled them around and, and told 'em they had no business being there and refused to cooperate with them and stalled as long as he could so his brothers can start hiding things and putting things away. And he said... and I said, "You know, that's the kind of stuff we want to hear about, how you reacted when the FBI came." He said, "Yeah," but he said, "I don't want to be interviewed." 'Cause he said after that, some of the other community members came to me and said, and chastised him for not cooperating, and not putting on a good face or whatever and giving the FBI a bad time. 'Cause they felt that was, he was not a good image with the FBI. And the official stance of the JACL at that time was that we should we cooperate and show we were good Americans by, by cooperating as much as we can. So they felt that it was just giving us a bad name and he didn't want people to be upset by stuff like that. So he... that was one of the reasons he gave for not wanting to be interviewed.

JD: Did your dad ever talk to you later about how he had felt or reacted to being singled out and sent to this so-called...

FK: No, no, and I guess in a lot of ways I didn't get really interested in history or family history until, you know, way after I graduated from college. Probably not until I got in my forties, and by that time my dad had passed away. So I'm, keep thinking, "God, if I had only, you know, was able to talk to him and asked him these questions before he passed away," since he died in '69. I, I've heard different stories from him when he was younger and so forth. But as far as the internment-type time, I've never really heard anything. I do remember my mother telling me that when they had that questionnaire, the "loyalty questionnaire," and my dad had just been released from Missoula, and that questionnaire came around. And he refused to sign "yes-yes" to the two questions. The one about bearing arms against an enemy and forsaking any allegiance to the emperor of Japan. And he was, he was so angry that he just refused to sign "yes-yes." And, and you know, the rumors are going around that if you don't sign "yes" you're gonna be taken away and sent to Tule Lake or back to Japan for, in exchange for Americans trapped in Japan. And my mom said, she said she pleaded with him and said, "Sign 'yes.' What would you do in Japan? You can't... you can speak Japanese, but you can't read or write Japanese. What, what would the family do if you had to go to Japan?" And she said, "I'd rather hang myself than go to Japan." And my dad got so angry he said, "Go get a rope. Go ahead." And, but he did finally sign "yes" to the two questions. And I think Reverend Andrews, Reverend Emery Andrews from the Baptist church played a big part in convincing him that he should think of his family first and sign "yes" on those two questions. So I know he was just really angry about what happened to him.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JD: Can we talk a little about the exclusion order? I'm sure people are interested in hearing why Bainbridge Island was chosen as the first place for Japanese Americans to be removed.

FK: Yeah, I don't... I haven't seen anything officially on why we were chosen but I would speculate that it was because... I think the official reason was because Boeing's on one side and the Bremerton Naval Shipyard was on the other side and, and probably a lot of other military installations like at Keyport and stuff were around. And I think that was a reason for doing that, but I really think the other thing that expedited that was because we were isolated. You know, we were island, we didn't... the only way you can get off the island would be by ferry. We didn't have the bridge in those days. So it became real easy for the army to isolate us and to kind of use us as a practice run to see how people would react to something like this. If they came in to force us off the island, whether we'd be violent or whether we would cause problems or protest or whatever. And since we went without any of that going on, then I think that kinda set the pace for, for them to do things. I know when I was at the National Archives, there was some articles or papers that I found over there that said, from the U.S. Army that were sent to the... they said, "Next time you do this, don't use your fixed bayonets because it doesn't look good," was what the, what the letter said. So I don't think they knew what to expect when they came to the island.

JD: Do you know how your parents felt? Did they tell you anything about how they felt when they, when that order came through, realizing they had to leave?

FK: You know, I think our parents, especially my mother, they kinda saw it as, as focusing most on the children and protecting them. Having them not have a bad experience, trying to make it like routine and like it was something that was just happening and didn't have the impact socially or, or racially or any of those kind of things. So they spent most of their time, I think, trying to make things as normal as they could and, and didn't really talk to us about the injustice or, or the things that they had to sacrifice by going through this. And of course my dad wasn't around, so I don't, I didn't hear what he had to say. But I think my mom's main focus was just to make sure us four kids were, were okay. And I know it was probably very scary for them.

JD: I know you probably didn't hear much about this directly, but I'm just wondering if, if they might have thought, "Well, this is just something that can happen to you if you move to another country where you're an identifiable minority." And, and it's difficult to imagine for most people being in that situation or having a government treat you that way.

FK: I think, I think there's several factors. One is I think in a lot of ways they felt really helpless. I mean, this was... nothing like this had occurred before. And certainly the Watts riots hadn't happened and no one had really protested. And I'm sure they would have thought they would have been shot if they, if they protested. At the same time, I think the decision to -- excuse me -- to go cooperatively has a lot to do with Japanese culture. Because in the Issei culture in Japan, if you question authority, it's shameful. Because then you're implying that your leaders are not knowledgeable enough or aren't good enough people to be your leaders. What you're saying is, if you protest against what they're doing and question them, you're saying, "You shouldn't be our leader." And that's, and that would have been a shameful thing to do. So I think in a lot of ways it was very hard for Isseis to protest, and I think most of the people that did protest were probably second-generation Nisei that, that either refused to go in the army or, or to be drafted and so forth. I think there were very few Issei that were, that would have been demonstrative or would have been violent about that.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JD: Do you remember how the family got ready to leave? How much time you had and what your mom had you do?

FK: Well, I know we had six days, but I don't remember much about it. I know I chose my rubber John Deere tractor to carry, 'cause I got that in my pictures. But it's... I don't, I don't remember anything of that day, I don't remember any of it at all. But the interesting thing to me is some of the people that I talk to that were in their teens and in their twenties don't remember anything about that day either. And they don't remember any of the details. They don't remember how they got to the dock or how they were feeling when they went down to the dock. They just know they were... went down to the dock and went onto the ferry, that's all they remember.

JD: I wonder if it was too shocking and painful an experience to remember.

FK: I have to believe that's what it was. 'Cause you... it's, it's hard not to remember stuff like that when you're that old. And some of them were in their late teens and, and twenties.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JD: What do you know about how the, about how Felix and the rest of the Filipino American community reacted to when, when you all were taken away?

FK: Well, I, I think in a lot of ways, they probably thought it was wrong. At the same time, it gave them an opportunity to, to expand what they were doing and so forth. I know my dad actually had a contract written out with Felix and his cousin Elaulio Aquino, to look after our farm and he would share profits with them. And I think what they found was that it was hard to get pickers, you know. It was... people didn't want to be picking berries when they could do other things, other things, and they also found out that they could make more money if they worked in the shipyard or worked on these other jobs. Where, where there's a manpower shortage, they were, people were looking for people to work and do different things. So like in our case, they stayed in our house and looked after our farm and stuff. But as far as the actual farm, it was pretty much gone by the time we got back in the three-and-a-half years 'cause they just stopped farming. Because it was just too difficult for them to do and it just wasn't that profitable for them unless they were willing to make a lot of sacrifices. So, I mean... you know, it, it's like we need to be really grateful that they were able... that we were able to keep our property by them having come there, but as far as keeping things going and stuff, it was just impossible for them to do.

JD: So your dad worked out the contract with Felix before he was taken off to the...

FK: Uh-huh. Yeah.

JD: So he knew, roughly, what was going to happen?

FK: Well, he had six days to do it, so...

JD: That seems to suggest a very, very strong trust between 'em before...

FK: Oh, yes, yeah. I'm sure. And you know, my dad, when he got back, said he was gonna sell Felix an acre of the land to build his house on, 'cause... and so he sold it to him for a dollar. But that's how important he thought that our relationship with him was.

JD: What happened to all the machinery and personal belongings and stuff that you all had to leave behind?

FK: Some of it was put in the Japanese hall. That was on... there was a Japanese Hall that they built in the, I think the late '20s. It was on Grow Avenue between Wyatt and Winslow Way. Some of the... if you had Filipino men looking after your farm or, or Caucasian people looking after your farm, you probably left your equipment there for them to use. Some of the stuff was put in storage with the government, but most of that was never returned. Things like maybe cameras and things that were a little smaller and valuable and so forth, and I don't know what happened to that. And I think later on they had a period of time where you could put in claims for being paid for property that was lost, but it was very limited as far as what they would pay you.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JD: Can you talk a little about the photograph that was taken of your family and Felix the day you all left for camp?

FK: Yeah... I'm really not sure who took that picture. But we were standing in the yard and our family was there, and Felix and Elaulio and another man who was never... another man of Filipino descent that no one can identify, not even Felix, 'cause I don't know who he was. But I don't know who took that picture. But it was just... it was the day we left 'cause we're all dressed to leave. So it must have been just before the, we boarded the army trucks to go over to the Eagledale site. I remember once Felix's cousin Elaulio -- was the other Filipino American that was with us -- Mom said he came to Minidoka to visit us, and that he was eating in the mess hall. And she said as he was eating, he dropped his fork on the floor and when he bent down to pick up his fork, he took the fish that was in his mouth out of his mouth and left it on the floor, and picked up the fork. And I guess we had gotten used to the food by then, but he thought it was awful. [Laughs]

JD: What do you know about what it was like for the rest of the Bainbridge Island community on the morning of March 30th, '42, the Filipino Americans or the Caucasians or other people who were seeing you all taken away?

FK: Again, I was really young so I don't remember. But just listening to people talk, like Jerry Nakata's friends like Hal Champness and Earl Hanson... that class that Jerry Nakata was in was just really close. They... every chance they get they, they meet together. And, and I know Jerry is not feeling well right now, but his daughter-in-law makes lunches and invites all these people to come to their house for lunch. And, and I'm really lucky 'cause he'll invite me to come sometimes and I can sit down with them. But it's just hilarious listening to them talk about their... what was going on during their high school days and stuff. And I, I thought some of us were really bad in high school, but those guys did things you can't believe. [Laughs] So they... it was just, it's just... you can just feel the closeness of their class. And Sada Omoto was their class president and, and they just... I just know that they just had this special feeling toward each other and that it was really hard for them when they had to separate out. I know Earl always says it was really hard on him not being able to personally say goodbye to Jerry at that site, because they weren't allowed to come close to them because the soldiers were there and wouldn't allow them to go down to say goodbye to them or for them to leave that area to come up to say goodbye to them. So I know that it was really hard. And in the case of the class of '42, I know there were thirteen kids of Japanese descent in that class of about fifty. And, and I'm sure it felt really weird to look at your class the next day and see thirteen empty seats there.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JD: Do you know... do you have personal memories of what Manzanar was like, or... had your mom told you what it was like when you all first got there?

FK: I, I don't have personal... I have a few personal memories. They're all memories that kids would have if they do something wrong. [Laughs] I remember being scalded by hot water in the mess hall 'cause I was running around and bumped into a woman who was serving hot water for tea. And I remember... every time an adult sees me that used to know me in concentration camp in Manzanar, they say, "Oh, you're that little kid that used to hang onto your mother's dress all the time and was crying all the time. I felt really sorry for your mother." So I must have just cried constantly while I was there. And it's not only, you know, one or two people that have said that, so I know this has gotta be true. [Laughs] I know everybody talks about the dust being there and, and how the bread was covered in sand. And the mess hall line and how you'd be chewing on sand rather than food when you ate. And they talk about having to take these canvas bags and stuff 'em with straw to make their mattresses. So, although I don't remember it personally, I'm sure that it was really a tough situation. Being one of the first groups there, I'm sure that a lot of the facilities weren't up to snuff yet, as far as toilet facilities, and the barracks and so forth, that they were still building a lot of the things there when we got there. And the conditions were probably not as good as, as they were maybe later on, although they probably still weren't very outstanding. I know my mom said that first week there, everyone got diarrhea. And then I remember somebody calling it the "Manzanar runs." But they said, she said, that this elderly Issei, first-generation woman came up to her and said, "They're gonna poison us and we're all gonna die. And we'll never leave this place." My mother told her she didn't think that was true 'cause she didn't think America was that way, and it was the food rather than the fact that they were actually trying to poison us. But, but that feeling probably was real to some of the older people there, 'cause they didn't know how they'd be treated.

JD: Were there many kids your age, do you know?

FK: Yeah. It's interesting, 'cause you look at these old photos of kids there and, I mean, families during... and most of the families had kids of corresponding ages. You know, like my sister had three or four people in her class, and my other sister had three or four people in her class. I had... there weren't, there weren't a lot of kids there, but, but... yeah. You know, like, like my, after the war I'm sure there were a lot less of us, and that's what I remember about school. But I don't think there were very many... maybe there's not any more than three, maybe, in my class. But I think before the war there were, like the senior class had thirteen kids in it.

JD: What led to many of the Bainbridge Island people moving from Manzanar to Minidoka?

FK: Well, I think the official reason is that we wanted to go there because most of our friends were in Seattle, and everybody else in Manzanar was from California. And so the Bainbridge group kind of petitioned to be moved to Minidoka to be with more people that they knew. One of the unofficial reasons I hear from some of the parents is that they were afraid for their kids, kids, 'cause the Bainbridge Island teenagers were getting into fights with the kids from Los Angeles. And they said, "You know, the kids from Los Angeles were dark and the kids from Bainbridge were light." So, you had this... which is kind of interesting, you're talking about color of skin. So they used to get in fights and stuff. And, but I was talking to someone who was a teenager at that time, and he said, he said, "Yeah," he said, "we didn't get along very good, but we finally learned how to get along with each other." So he said, "It wasn't that bad." But, he said, "By the time we went to Minidoka, we learned all these kid -- all these tricks from these Manzanar kids so we could use them when we got to Minidoka." [Laughs] So, you know, what could you say? But I think one of the unofficial reasons is that the parents didn't like the influence that the Los Angeles kids were having on the Bainbridge Island kids. And I think besides that, Manzanar was really getting crowded. And, and Minidoka was a newer camp and they were very willing to move us to Minidoka because Manzanar was getting really crowded. 'Cause Manzanar originally was supposed to be a holding camp where people were dispersed to other camps, and then it became a permanent camp. So I think it, it made sense for them to move us to make more room. And besides that, people from Tule Lake were being moved to different camps, too, so...

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JD: Besides the getting scalded with water and the bad food and the sand, what other kinds of memories do you have of, of life in Minidoka?

FK: I remember, well, Manzanar, I remember the oil furnace that was in the... our source of heat. It was a little oil furnace that sat in the middle of the floor and it used to scare me half to death 'cause it would roar, kind of make a roaring noise. But one day I got really curious, so I just stuck a piece of paper in there to see what would happen. And it immediately caught fire, and, and fortunately my uncle came walking through the door and stomped the paper out. But I probably would have burnt the whole camp down if he hadn't walked through the door. So, you know, those kind of things I do. And then in Minidoka, I remember once almost hanging myself. I was swinging on a rope that hung loose, and there was another rope next to it, and I slipped off this rope and that other rope wrapped around my neck. And my cousin Hiro, who's a year older than I was -- I must have been about four -- ran into the barrack and got a knife and cut me down. And I don't think if he cut me down I would be around here, 'cause I remember that rope burn being there for a long time. I remember being trampled at a Miss Minidoka contest because I was sitting in the front row and everybody surged forward when they announced the winner. [Laughs] And my sister took me to the camp hospital there and they were picking gravel out of me. I remember, I remember spit wad fights that the older kids used to have. They would go to the laundry room and tip over the -- I guess it was maybe the rec. room -- anyway, they tipped over the ping pong tables and they would sit behind the ping pong tables and shoot these paper spit wads at each other. And then when they ran out of ammunition, us little kids had to run out there and grab as many of the ammunition as we could and bring it back for our side. I remember being pulled around on the swimming pool pond when it froze over in wintertime. Lefty Katayama, who was in the counterintelligence at the time, he was on leave from the army and he would pull me around on the sled. And that was really something I remember.

I remember going out to the sagebrush once at night. And I, I have a feeling that Block 44, which is the last block 'cause we were there last, didn't have any fencing at the, at one of the, at our end of the concentration camp. And I remember going out in the sagebrush and seeing cowboys. They had a, their wagons there -- actually, it might not have been cowboys. It might have been sheep boys since I think it was sheep out there. But it was the first time I had seen a real live quote/unquote "cowboys," and it was kind of fun doing that. I remember the older kids digging a network of tunnel under the barracks, and then they let me go into the tunnel. And it was... they had candles and stuff in there and it was like a big secret passageway with secret caves and stuff. And I don't remember anybody telling me about that or anybody even verifying they were with me, but I remember those tunnels. I remember once trying to be a grownup and taking a pack of cigarette from my dad's dresser and going underneath the barrack and smoking the whole pack. And I remember really being sick and somebody telling me, "Oh, you should drink a, eat a lot of chocolate bars so you could kill the smell, the taste." But I think I was sick for about a week and I never told my mom why and I don't know if she ever knew or not. But I remember I was feeling guilty once while I was in college so I told her about it and she said, "Huh?" So I knew it was safe to tell her. [Laugh] But I never smoked again after being five years old. So it was probably a good life lesson for me.

JD: Sounds as if you were the kind of person that had to try everything just to see...

FK: [Laughs] I think so, yeah. Yeah. I think I used to drive my oldest sister, Lilly, crazy. [Laughs] 'Cause she had, felt like she had to look after me.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JD: Now, when you were in Minidoka, was your dad still in the Justice camp, or was he...

FK: He left... they let him out of Missoula and I found some records at Suitland, the National Archives branch for the internment, that said he had a hearing and that he said he had been arrested for having dynamite in his barn and a .22 rifle, and that's all the paper said. And, and that they let him go to come back to join us in Manzanar. And then when we transferred to Minidoka, he... you know, they decided they would let people leave concentration camp and go back east or to the Midwest, but you couldn't go back to the West Coast. So if you had a sponsor to work someplace or go to school someplace, they could do that. And my dad, according to my mom, was trying really hard to have the whole family move to Denver or wherever. And my mom didn't want to go because she said to him, "Well, how are you gonna feed us?" And he really didn't have a clue, and, but he just wanted the whole family to get out of there. So, eventually he got a letter of recommendation from one of the Friedlanders, who owned the jewelry stores that he worked at, and, and went back to Chicago to go to watch repair school. 'Cause his dream was always to have his own jewelry store, and he figured if he knew how to repair watches he could do that, so he went back to Chicago to watch repair school. So I don't remember much about my dad being in concentration camp at all. He was probably just in Manzanar for a few months and Minidoka for a few months and after that, I don't remember him. I know he did come back to pick us up to bring us home, but that's... that's all I remember, really.

JD: But did he get a complete training, certification, in watch repair, so he could...

FK: Yeah, yeah. And then when he came back, and when we came back, he actually borrowed money from the Friedlanders to open his own jewelry store. He started a small one on Yesler and then he eventually, according to my brother-in-law, Lilly's husband Joe, who worked for him, Mr. Friedlander came into his store once and said, "Boy, this is sure small. You need a bigger place," and encouraged him to... and gave him more money to, to start a bigger one under the Bush Hotel, 617 Jackson, and that's where he was for a long time. Frank's Jewelry, 617 Jackson.

JD: It sounds as if it must have been pretty hard, extra hard, for your mom to be in the camp without your dad.

FK: I would think so. Yeah, I would think so. And, maybe that's why I was crying all the time. I mean, that's a good excuse, anyway. [Laughs] But I'm sure it was hard for my mom, and I think when I listen to my older sister Lilly now, and she was there from age seven to almost ten, and I think she took a lot of the responsibility as far as looking after my sister Frances and myself and my sister Jane. She was the one that kind of was an auxiliary mom, I guess. Yeah.

JD: Did the, that experience of being in the camp... your mom and the kids in the camp but your dad mostly not, did that affect how things were after the camp? Or was that... did they just get back together and kind of try and carry on their lives?

FK: Yeah. You know, once we came back it was... he commuted to town every day except on Sundays, and he worked on the farm. But I don't, I don't know how, you know, as far as their marriage and stuff, I don't know how it affected their marriage. It probably affected it to some degree, but it was, it was like home again. Except my dad was, was... always had a big temper, and always would be angry a lot of times. But he, he hard a heart of gold, couldn't refuse anybody. And that was probably the problem for my mother. [Laughs] He would come home with complete strangers sometimes without saying anything, or... even on the way back from concentration camp, there were the six of us crowded into this little coupe car and this guy wanted a ride, so he said, "Okay." [Laughs] So, he was just that type of person. It was just very hard to, for him to turn anybody down. But he... but I know he was bitter about some of the things that went on in his life. So... so he was also angry at the same time.

JD: Do you know if he considered himself to be successful in what he'd wanted to do when he was a young man?

FK: Gosh, I don't know. I think he had a tough life. I think he had a stepfather, and according to what he had told me, he came home from school one day and his stepfather said, "Well, what did you learn in school today?" and he said, "Nothing." So his stepfather said, "Well then why are you going to school?" So he quit. And then he couldn't get along with his stepfather, so he just left home and started working as a ship's cabin boy and did all these odd jobs and kind of drifted around doing things. I know he worked as a chauffeur for a while and when he got the job for being a chauffeur he decided he'd better go get a driver's license. So, he's just a type of person who would... things would come up and he'd just take care of it, you know, he'd just do it. And... but he only went through sixth grade, so... but my mom only went through sixth grade, too.

And my mom is, is really interesting because she was the first born. And my grandfather decided he couldn't get ahead in this new country with a daughter, so he shipped her back to Japan with a, with strangers, to be raised by an uncle. So she was raised in Japan 'til she was, oh, I think almost ten or twelve. And, and by that time she had one brother and four sisters when she finally came back to the United States with them. And she said she went into the first grade on the island when she should have been in sixth grade because she didn't know how to speak English. But she said by the end of the year she was up to sixth grade. She went to Olympic grade school on Tolo Road. But she said after the sixth grade, I mean, after that one year of school, her father said to her, "You know, you're the oldest in the family, so I need help on the farm here so you're gonna have to help me on the farm." But she said... but he said, "When I go back to Japan, since you're the oldest, you're gonna help on the farm, I'll give you this farm." So, she just went through sixth grade, and then I guess in 1935 when he decided to go back to Japan and take his two youngest kids with him, he said to my mother, "You know, it wouldn't be fair for me to just give you this farm, so I'll just sell it to you and your husband for what I paid for it." So she said, so she said, "We paid five thousand dollars for this farm." And she's talking about this story around this table with all her other sisters and the second oldest sister said, "Oh, that's not what he paid for it." So he made a profit off my mother. [Laughs] So, I don't think she ever forgave him for that, besides being shipped off to Japan. So, but she's just, just that good business sense. She's just, you know, was one of the first to start irrigating on the island and first to grow the raspberries, one of the first to grow Christmas trees, and she just, just, with her sixth grade education, she just really knew what she was doing. So it just always amazed me that I got these two parents who just went through sixth grade and they both seemed smarter than I was and I, you know, went through college. I'm going, wow, it's more than just education that makes somebody educated.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JD: Can we talk a little bit more about life on the island during the war, and in particular, what do you know about what life was like for Felix Narte taking care of the farm and working and all the stuff he had to take...

FK: Well, you know, I did, my son Derek did do a taped interview with him with, on audio and he... I think, I think during the wartime period he, he said there were a lot of people living in the house, for one thing. And, but I think he was a pretty focused guy as far as... he became an electrician at the shipyard without any training, just kind of apprenticeship training. And, and I know every job he's had, he's almost always ended up being a foreman. Even in Alaska and even in Hawaii working in the pineapple fields, I think he ended up being a foreman at a real young age and in Alaska he was a foreman. So he just, he just had some real smarts about him that, that he knew what he was doing. So I think he was a very exceptional person.

JD: Sounds like a quality that both of your parents had, too.

FK: Could be. Maybe that's why they liked each other, huh? [Laughs] Could be, yeah.

JD: So he made a trip to visit your family in Minidoka?

FK: Yeah. He must have, 'cause I know he's in that picture. So, and I don't know of any stories of that, of him coming, other than him being in that picture. But I've just heard the one about his cousin Elaulio that came over. So, yeah...

JD: Why was it important for your family to have a formal portrait taken with him in it?

FK: You know, I don't know. I assume... I assume it would have been my father's decision. And... 'cause I'm sure he was making all the decisions as far as when he was there, so... but, he must have thought it was important enough for us to go do that in Twin Falls.

JD: How did Felix get there? It must have been a pretty difficult trip.

FK: I assume they drove. I mean, even now it's pretty hard to fly into Twin Falls, so I assume they drove there. And I must have... it would have taken, shoot, I'm sure it would have taken about a good fifteen, sixteen hours to get there in those days. They don't have that seventy-five miles-per-hour freeway that they have now, so... I'm sure it would have been a big trip.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JD: At the end of the war, how did you all get back to Bainbridge Island, and how did you meet up, meet up with your dad again?

FK: You know, my father said before he came to pick us up, he decided he'd go to the island and check it out. He wanted to know if it was... if the climate was okay. I don't think he meant the weather. But he said he came here and was riding the ferry. He said there was some people who, when they saw him, turned their backs on him and refused to acknowledge him. And then there were some other people who said, "Hi Frank, it's good to see you back." I mean, it's been about three and a half years. He said Mrs. Williams, Genevieve Williams, who lived on Fletchers Bay, she was a... I remember her. She was a very unusual woman. She used to smoke a pipe and you didn't see very many women smoking pipes in those days. And had this real deep, gruff voice -- but, he said Mrs. Williams came with him, and he was sure it was to make sure no one harassed him. And I've heard other stories from other people on the island, too, like Kay Nakao said that Mrs. Williams and her husband protected them when they first came back, too. So, so he decided it was fine to come back. So he came back after us in our, in his, in our car, and we all piled up into the car and came back. And we were, I think we were the second family back on the island. I think the Takemotos came back in June sometime and we came back in July sometime. It was before the war was over. They started letting us out of concentration camp before the war was over. And I think largely that was because there was a case in front of the Supreme Court that the government knew they were gonna lose and that they would have to let us out anyways.

JD: Well, in July, the war in Europe was over.

FK: Yeah, but not the one in Japan. Right.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JD: What was it like when you got back to your home? What do you remember about that?

FK: I don't remember much other than that it was really big, you know, compared to... and everything looked really green. I remember my dad, when the ferry was pulling up to the dock said, "Oh, no, we caught the wrong ferry. This is Vashon," and I'm going, "Oh," but he was just kidding. But I remember everything looking so big and so green. you know, and... well, the house itself was different because nothing like a barrack, which is all I really knew from the last three and a half years. And, and it, it was probably different to be eating with a, as a family in one room rather than in a big mess hall. And I do remember going into first grade at old Eagledale school... McDonalds School, it was called, I guess. And language really wasn't a big problem for me 'cause we spoke mostly English in concentration camp. So I don't remember anything very unusual other than that I had this faint feeling in me through all the years I went to school on the island, wishing I was white and thinking that I was really at a disadvantage not being white. And I think I tried everything I could to be as white as I could be, all the way through high school. And I don't think I realized until I was in college that doesn't work, you know. 'Cause somebody who didn't know me would come up to me and know in an instant that I wasn't white, and so it wasn't working. So I had to deal with that. But I don't think I dealt with that 'til I was in college.

JD: Was that because, do you think that was because of the sense that you had of your whole family being shamed and being put in a concentration camp because you looked Japanese and then...

FK: Yeah. I think that was part of it. But also I never knew the history of the Japanese on the island. I never knew that we were here since 1883 and that we weren't just interlopers or newcomers or... I never knew that we planted the first strawberries or that we, that there were forty-five families on the island here of Japanese descent, and out of the three thousand people that lived here, there were three hundred of us that lived here. I didn't know any of that. And I didn't... and any time we studied Japan, it was a foreign country. You know, it was, it was like you, you're American, but you're really a foreigner, and that you just don't fit in. And obviously it wasn't popular for our parents to want us to know our Japanese heritage at that time. They felt, you know, we needed to fit in. And, and try not to, try not to emphasize our Japanese background. So we lost a lot of that culture, I think. And even before the war when they burnt a lot of the stuff and, or threw 'em down the outhouse hole because they were afraid of what the FBI would think of them if they were caught with Japanese things. So, so I distinctly remember laying in bed sometimes, crying to myself because I was Japanese, and wondering why in the world I had to be Japanese.

JD: Did you try wearing tall shoes and slick your hair back and...

FK: [Laughs] No, I was too subtle for that. I just figured I was white. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

JD: Returned from camp, how were you treated? We'd like, be interested to know what was the condition of the farm and what kind of activities did you get into, and also, how were you treated by the community around there when you got back?

FK: 'Course, the farm pretty much was all weeds 'cause it hadn't been farmed. I mean, they just didn't farm it. And the house, because it was mostly bachelor men that lived there, was pretty much dust, kinda like camp. So I know my mom spent a lot of time having to get the house back in shape and at the same time, it was like starting over with the berries. As far as how we were treated when we came back, I, I guess I was just so young that I don't remember anything overtly done against us. I do remember, though, there were some kids that just really didn't like me at all, and I didn't really know why. But you know, if you're a kid and someone doesn't like you, it's hard to think that they don't like you because you look different. I mean, this is America after all. I mean, that's not the way this country is. But if you can't say that they don't like you because you look different, then there must be something wrong with you. Either that or you've done something bad, you're a bad person. So both, both of those options aren't really easy to accept. But it does a lot for your self image if you feel that this is not because the way you look or because you're Japanese. So I, I remember struggling with that a lot. And I don't think there was anything ever, you know, overtly said or, or name-calling or any of those kind of things other than that there were some kids who just really always gave me a bad time. And it could, it could have been because I was rotten. I mean, I was doing all these things in camp anyways. So, you know... [laughs]

JD: Do you know how the Filipino community generally treated the returning Japanese?

FK: I think in most cases they were thought of as the caretakers for the property while they were gone, while we were gone. So, I don't think... you know, I think it varies by family. Some families felt real close to the people that worked for them, and some people just thought of them as employees. I don't, I don't think... it was very hard, probably, to think of them as, as being equal to you. Which is, it sounds kind of racist and it probably was. 'Cause I think the, that was... the Japanese American farmers and families felt they were at this one level and the people that worked for them were at another. And, I know myself, personally, it was hard for me to get out of that mode, to think of these kids of these Filipino families as being equal to me. And I had to struggle with that. I mean, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was being kinda racist with, with feeling they weren't, quote/quote, as good as I was, which is really stupid, but that's kind of the way you think when you're struggling to find who you are yourself, with your own identity. So, I think a lot depends on how close these Filipino men were to the families before the war. And how close they were -- and I know in our case, in our family, my parents really felt really close to Felix Narte. But that was, might have been an exception rather than the rule, as far as how people felt.

JD: I've got a question here that, about why the Filipino community formed their own association, why there wasn't any sense of -- or maybe there was some -- but not a strong sense of solidarity between the two minority communities.

FK: I, I think the glory days of the Japanese American farmers was before the war, and that's when most of the associations and things were formed. After the war, they did do some things with the Bodles and National Fruit and so forth. But I think at the same time, the, the Americans of Filipino descent were probably going through the same kind of struggles that we had gone through ten, twenty years earlier. You know, finding their own identity, trying to find some, some powers in numbers, and so forth and all that. I think it was very important for them to form their own associations and their own social groups and all that. Because in a lot of ways if you're a single man and you're working for someone, there's not that need to join together to, to form some sort of a social base, or so forth. But when you start marrying and getting families and getting kids, it's really important for the families to have some sort of identity. And, and I think that was an important thing for them to do. And I don't think they would have got that by joining a Japanese American group or anything like that, or a Caucasian group, or anything like that.

JD: What about the rest of the non-Japanese community on Bainbridge Island, how they... how did they treat you and your family after you got back?

FK: Well, again, we'd been here for a long time, and neighbors knew neighbors. And, yes, there were a few people that were against us coming back and a few people that felt it was justified to send us off, in a way, for their own protection and alleviate their own fears. But in general, I think when you grow up with each other and the kids go to school with each other and you're neighbors, that really, that really makes us or, so that fear isn't that great for, for people. They don't see us as being an enemy, even if we look like the enemy. But that's probably not true for someone if they haven't spent time with us, and so forth. I think when we came back it was... Bainbridge is a very exceptional place. That there were people here that were willing to stick out their necks for us even before we left and while we were gone. I know... well, people like the Woodwards and their paper, but also the Meyers' with their insurances. I mean, people wouldn't sell people insurance here when we got back. And he said, "This is crazy. I mean, they fought in the war and so forth." So he talked to his boss and he said, "You know, we need to give these people insurance." So he quietly went around getting insurance for people who wouldn't be able to get that. And I know the Andersons from Anderson Hardware paid some back taxes on the Harui property when no one did so that wouldn't be taken over. I know people like Mr. Burkmeyer... Burk, Burkhalter, excuse me, was an attorney, did some legal things for people. I know Mr. Barnett, who came here to the island later, but he defended Hirabayashi and so forth. So there were some very significant people on this island. The Quakers, who stood up for us. So, in a lot of ways this is a very special island. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we were... been here for so long, and because this is a close-knit community. When you don't have any way to get off except on the ferry you don't... I mean, kids in those days... you talk to the adults that were kids in those days, and it was very rare that they went to Seattle. They spent all their time on the island. 'Course, you had to walk everywhere, but that's... in itself was, you know, makes it so you don't get in your car and run off someplace.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

JD: This is a very speculative question. I don't know if it's possible to say anything about this, but do you imagine that without the war hysteria and deliberate prejudice created by the U.S. government, that the Bainbridge Island community would have seen you as the enemy or looking like the enemy? Would that have, would that have caused a huge reaction against the Japanese American community here?

FK: Well, that's an interesting question. I'm sure there would have been a few people that would have... would still feel that way. I mean, there were people at that time who felt that we should be taken away and that it was justified, and that we should never come back. But, I would say in general, we probably would have been able to ride that out, you know, and then just gone merrily on our way and just done what we always do. But I think politically, it was becoming such a, a problem in that, again, it's, it's the fear of politicians losing their jobs. The fear of, of farmers, not particularly on Bainbridge but maybe in the valley or in California, having their industry taken over by people of Japanese descent. Or, or those kind of fears make... when somebody gets really afraid of their own well-being, it gets real easy to not think about anything except yourself. And, and it becomes an excuse or a reason for doing some things that don't make sense. So, the chances are pretty good the island would have survived with us being here, but I don't know if it would have been possible because of the climate at that time, politically.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

JD: So, after the war, after your family's back on your farm, how did you compensate Felix for what he'd done for you all?

FK: Well, I know my dad said he was really grateful that he had taken care of our property and all that and all the years he'd worked for us. So he said he was gonna sell him an acre of land and sold it to him for a dollar to make it official. And that's where Felix built his house. And, and I think that's probably the most overt thing that they did as far as doing that. But you know, he was just like family. I mean, if my mother had a problem with something and needed some help, she would talk to him and, and he would give his advice. Or if, if something was going on in their family that my mom thought she could help with, then she was there. So, it was, it was really like family.

JD: Were there any other situations that you knew of where the Japanese Americans coming back actually created problems for Filipinos here? That opposite kind of a situation?

FK: Uh-huh. Yeah. I know one of the families that came back couldn't get the Filipino family off their land. And, and struggled and struggled with that for a long time and finally ended up selling it to them 'cause they couldn't get them to move. So... but, you know, there are isolated stories like that. There was one family in family in Kingston who gave their Caucasian neighbors power of attorney on their property in case something happened, and they sold the land without... didn't give them any of the money. So you know, those kind of things happened, but they were isolated. And most of that... there were Caucasian families on the island who looked after farms like the Rabers looked after the Kouras' and there were people who -- because you couldn't own land unless you were a citizen and your kids weren't old enough to own land yet -- would carry the contract for them until one of the kids got old enough to put the property under. So it just varied from situation to situation, and I think in most cases though, here on the island, there were just a lot of supportive people. And, and anything that happened that shouldn't have happened was pretty isolated. I know Kay talks about her family coming back to their house and they couldn't get the Caucasian renter out of their house. And that every time she was supposed pay the rent, she would write and tell them she had to repair this or repair that and would never pay her rent. So when they came back, she refused to leave, so the family finally moved into the basement. And this person refused to leave upstairs and so one day, she said one day her father decided he was gonna cook as many Japanese foods as he could that smelled awful. And he did that for a few days and she left. [Laughs] So, there's always a way to do something, I guess.

JD: The Japanese way to get somebody out of your house...

FK: Yeah, right.

JD: I have a question here about, after Felix came back from the Philippines with his bride, your mother helped her learn about American culture. Can you tell us something about the ways she, that she helped her?

FK: Well... I think it was probably a combination of my mother wanting to help her because my mother was so irritated, probably. [Laughs] I guess one of the examples they used was that she told her that when she answers the phone she's supposed to say hello. And that was because she was answering the phone by saying, "Who's this?" [Laughs] So, it was more a case of my mother probably trying to teach her courtesy-type stuff, you know, rather than... so, but you know, my mom was, was probably somebody that Cion could, could rely on and ask for advice if she needed some, some information on doing things.

JD: Did Felix and Cion have kids and were they kind of like part of your family?

FK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, the kids were... let's see, how many kids did they have? They had, I think, five kids. How many, six? Six, yeah, six. And, I remember the kids growing up, they were just really neat kids and stuff. And of course, Felix was older when he, when he married Cion, so he, I mean, he just was all excited about having a family and all that. So, but it was, it was really nice, yeah.

JD: So he lived on this acre of land that he'd gotten from your dad and they built a house and they were raising their family there and he was working in the shipyard mainly?

FK: Yeah, but he also bought some property on the island and started running his own berry farm and stuff. And, and was going to Alaska every summer. You know, he'd, he'd go there maybe for two or three months and probably make more than he would raising berries all year, so, as a foreman. I know he had his kids go up and he also had my sister's kids go up, you know, and work there. And I know my nephew Jon met his wife, Connie, there. [Laughs] So, he laughs about being a matchmaker. So, you know, he's just.... there's just something about him quality-wise that made people trust him to become foreman.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

JD: Can we... can you think just a little bit about important lessons that you think people of the future or people of today could learn from this period in history? The experience of the Japanese American community, the particular way that Bainbridge Island related to that whole time, and then, and also about the relationship between the Japanese American and Filipino American communities.

FK: Well, I think there are a couple lessons that are important to me here. One is, one is that, that the opposite of caring for someone really isn't hate, but it really is fear. That when you become afraid for your own safety or afraid for your image or any, any fear for yourself makes it very hard sometimes to think of the other person, and what they're going through. You become so protective of yourself and your own safety that the welfare of someone else just completely leaves your mind. And, and you can say somethin' like the forced removal or the internment or whatever you want to call it, that you, that you didn't realize it was going on or that it was so difficult or that it was so bad, you can say those kind of things, but most of it is because you aren't willing to be aware of what's going on because you're so preoccupied with your own safety. The other thing, I think, is power. And I talked about this before, but power can be thought of as being two different things. One is external power, which is power that you get whether it's wealth or political position or being recognized, or whatever. And the other one is authentic power, which is the power you have within you or your soul. And, and the way you can measure the difference between the two is, is that external power is something that can be taken away from you. You can lose it. While authentic power, your soul, is not something that can be taken away from you. I mean, people can attack you or do anything they want to you, but if you've got that power within you to really believe what you're doing is, is out of caring and loving, it just can't be taken away from you. 'Cause you know what you're doing is, is correct. And, and I think external power, because when it becomes important, it leads to judging people and it leads to saying people have different classes and different levels. And, and it makes it harder for us to feel that everybody is valued because we're working so hard to, to have that external power. And while one of the measures again might be "I do good things, therefore I must be good." Or "You do good things because you are good." And there's a difference between the two things. And, and I think fear-mongering, all those things happen. And it's almost... automatically follows anybody who's geared towards protecting external power. And you almost always end up with a violent sort of war or any of those kinds of things.

And I think looking for our soul is, is really our purposes in life. And, and I, I'm hopeful that this memorial and this, the things we're doing, helps remind everybody that that's what that's for. It's not for criticizing people or to, to say this wrong thing has happened to us, but it's for the future of our children. Being able to see that the most important thing in life is your soul and how you care for other people and how you, how you feel about your own soul. And that's, and that helps people do that by seeing the things that are going on, and I think it's all worthwhile.

And as far as the Filipino community, I think everybody struggles with, with seeing everybody as equally valued or not seeing each other as one being better than the other, and so forth. And I think it's a struggle that both sides are making right now. And, and it could be something we never talk about and something we never even mention, but it's, it's a struggle that everybody goes through. And I think until everybody sees each other as being equally valued, that each of us is no better than the worst person in the world. We'll always have conflict and struggle for wanting external power instead of looking at our souls.

JD: Is this understanding that you now have of what is most important in life, do you connect this in any way to the experience that you and your family went through during the war and the internment and the struggles after that?

FK: Yeah, 'cause I see that as... well, that's my life. I mean, that's probably influenced my life more than anything else, is this, is being taken off to concentration camp because of the way I look, so on and so forth. But I also think it's the struggle that everyone goes through whether they've been off to concentration camp or not. It's... we're always searching for who we are and, and wanting to advance that goodness within us. And I think if we see that as really the purpose in life, and it is a purpose in life because I think if we die, we don't take any of that stuff with us, you know, you don't take your good looks, you don't take your wealth, you don't take all that stuff. But if we leave anything of us here on earth it's how we've affected other people and, and how we've helped them become more quote/quote, soulful. And I, and I, and if you believe in reincarnation, which I do, I think that's the constant struggle in life. When you come back in another life, you're actually coming back to work more on your, on your soul. And it's... karma is, is what happens to you because of the things you do. And if, we need to realize that if we don't treat other people as valued and, and care for them, that's gonna come back on us somehow and make it harder for us to work on our souls in this life or the next life that we come back to.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

JD: Do you see ways that the memorial can give a message like that to visitors... not only about the soul of the Japanese American community but about just what it means to be a human being?

FK: Yeah. I think we can use examples. I think, I think we have the soul of the people who went to concentration camp peacefully without protesting. We have the souls of the over sixty men and women from our three hundred, or two hundred seventy-six of us, who served in the U.S. Army during that time. We have the souls of the people that refused to be drafted because of what was happening to their people. They said, "Let my, let the Japanese Americans get out of the concentration camp and we'll serve." I mean, that's soul. We have the souls of the people who supported us, the Woodwards, the Meyers, the Andersons, the Terabochias, the Champnesses. We have their souls, who in spite of all the fears they could have gone through, who still supported us. And I think if, if people can see that there are alternatives to fear, alternatives to violence, and, and that you can take that risk to do those things, I think there's a possibility that they could speak that way, this memorial could speak that way.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

JD: Here's a question that just occurred to me, this is sort of going back to when we were talking about your family and your dad. I know in my own life, my dad didn't give me much advice or tell me how to do things or explain things to me. And, and I felt sort of deprived in a sense because I, I wanted to understand, you know, I don't know how to grow up, become a man in this culture and stuff. He didn't really tell me anything about that. But I realized later that he had a tremendous influence and taught me a huge amount, just by the way he lived his own life. And I'm wondering if you have any sense like that about your own father and how, how the way he lived his life sort of formed your character or informed the way you approached things.

FK: Oh, I'm sure it has. Yeah, I'm sure it has. I know I, I look back on when I was a young man and I remember yelling at him one time and telling him he can't, he might as well quit getting mad at me because I was bigger than him now and I could beat him up. [Laughs] And I'm thinking, "Why did I ever do that?" But, you know, but, but I think about the little things he's done for people, and his free spirit and his caring. And I know that's rubbed off on me, you know. I know there were good things and bad things that he did in life. But I know... and I just, I just wish I had more time to really get to know him before he passed away. 'Cause '69, well, I was just not that old enough to think, you know, things were that important. And, but I, I kind of hope he realizes that I know how important he was in my life. That I, I probably identified with my mom a lot more because she was around when I was little. But I think about the things now... I mean, I used to think my dad did stupid stuff. He used to, he used to do yaito, you know, the burning different acupuncture burning in spots and, and now I'm into acupuncture burning and so I'm thinking, "Oh, shoot. Maybe he wasn't that off." And I used to think he used to do stupid things like make tofu. I mean, who would ever eat that stuff? But he was obviously ahead of his time. So, and sometimes people see me limping along and say, "God, you look just like your dad when you're walking." [Laughs] 'Cause he used to limp around and so I, I know he's an influence on my life. And I, you know, yeah, I do think he was. Yeah.

JD: What about the chinchillas?

FK: [Laughs] Well, this is one of the examples of what I, sometimes I thought my dad did really stupid stuff was one year decided he was gonna make a lotta money and raise chinchillas. So he came home with about a dozen chinchillas, and we thought, "Oh, no, here he goes again." [Laughs] And, he didn't get very far. But I'm sure it didn't do much for his... for how he felt about himself when we all thought it was a stupid thing for him to. [Laughs] Yeah. But that's, that was the way he was. He just, he just got this idea and he would go for it. [Laughs] Yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

JD: Actually, one thing that I, that I'm interested in and I think others might be historically, is the Japanese came here first, they were farming. The Filipinos came here at some other point, we don't know about, and for what reason, and how that relationship sort of formed. I'm assuming the Filipinos who first arrived were just young men wanting to work, they had no prospect except to make some money here and then maybe bring a bride over and establish a family. But that whole thing and how it evolved into the, the communities that sort of co-existed is really interesting to me...

Lucy Ostrander: And they came mainly in the '20, and early '30s during the height of the Depression, and there were no jobs.

FK: Okay. Well, the Japanese went into agriculture, and they really felt... they were always looking for people to work on their farms or to run their farms. I mean, even in those days, I don't think you had very many people other than the kids on Bainbridge who'd be willing to pick and as most of the Japanese farmers said in those days, kids weren't really very dependable. They would come when they wanted to come and, and eat the berries more than pick 'em, and maybe play catch with the berries or throw 'em at each other rather than pick 'em. So I think in the late '20s, a lot of the Filipino men were looking for work, and actually were migrating along with the farm seasons down to the Yakima Valley or down in southeast Washington and so forth. And somebody said, "Well, you could go to Bainbridge Island, and, and work on the farms there." And I think they saw that as really a good opportunity because it was really close to Seattle where most of them were and most of them were staying when they weren't working in Alaska or in the fields. So they came to the island to work and it was, it was during the depression time when the farmers were struggling trying to make, make things, make ends meet. They, they'd actually borrowed money to... or borrowed plants to plant their strawberries and so forth. So any help that they could get would, was something that they really cherished. And, and when these men, men of Filipino extraction came, they were willing to work and they were dependable, you didn't have to depend on kids of kids or that kind of stuff, or people that didn't really want to be farming or just saw that as a hobby. So it became more and more a reason for the farmers of Japanese descent to hook up with a specific Filipino person who was willing to work on their farm. And I think almost every farm, farmer of Japanese descent on the island had a specific Filipino person who, who helped manage his farm and would help with overseeing the pickers and, and work year-round to get the crops ready and so forth. So, this relationship existed at that time.

And then when World War II came, it was... unless you had someone you could turn to who was a good family friend who was Caucasian or so forth, it was probably a natural progression to look at somebody that was working for you and say, "Hey, would you be willing to look after the farm if, if we were willing to share profits with you?" and, and to do that. So, you, you took your most trusted person which was probably somebody that'd worked on your farm for a while, and, and asked them to do that. And say, "You know, you could stay in the house and do that and we'd share profits with you." And I think that's how the relationship kind of developed. I don't think we, there was ever a time when they saw each other as partners or saw each other as equals or... the, I think the Japanese American farmers probably saw them as employees, trusted employees, people who could be foreman of their places and all that, but probably never a partner. They were probably seen as caretakers of the, of the land while they were gone. And that's of course if you owned your own land. 'Cause, I'd say half the farmers on the island were leasing because you couldn't own property in those days unless you were a citizen of the United States. So, and if you were a person of Japanese descent, you weren't allowed to become a citizen 'til 1952, I think. So, although people were thought of as being aliens, they were aliens because they weren't allowed to become citizens.

So, I think that's how the natural progression happened. I don't think... and after the war, a lot of the Filipino men, I think, realized that they could probably own farms of their own, that they didn't have to work for somebody else, and struck out on their own. They probably also made money at other jobs like the shipyard and so forth. So they started their own farms, and, and in a lotta ways, at a lot smaller scale. So it wasn't like it was competition, it wasn't like they were fighting against each other, but they, I think they kind of took the model of what the Japanese farmers had done in the past and took that model to do what they were going to do, and develop their own civic pride in what they were doing. At the same time they were getting married, having children and so forth, so I think they saw that as something that they had to do, that they couldn't just be bachelor men all the time. So they had to set, set down some roots and become a force by banding together and doing things.

And, and I think as far as how close the relationship was with the various farms, it would depend on the individual. It would depend on how close they were with the family ahead of time. Like in our case with, with Felix, I mean, he was... Felix and Elaulio were actually with my grandparents, so it had been a lot of years, you know, that they'd been trusted people working. And, and that would have been my mother's side of the family and since my mother was running the farm, I'm sure she felt really comfortable with them being close. And I think my, my dad realized how, how critical it was how they looked after our farm at that time, and, and decided that he just needed to reward them for doing that. But I, but I know my mother and, my mother and Felix were always real close. And that might have been an outgrowth of the, him working there for so long.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

LO: Do you think the reason so many returning Japanese Americans were able to come back to Bainbridge and start farming again was because of that relationship that they had with the Filipinos?


FK: I think if it wasn't for these men of, that were of Filipino descent looking after the farms, it would have been very difficult for people to come back to their farms. And even if the farming was not intact, just having the presence of those people in their homes and looking after their property was important. I... oh, for an example, like Bainbridge Gardens pretty much shut down. No one looked after Bainbridge Gardens, and greenhouses were destroyed, people threw rocks through the glass. I remember once Junkoh writing an article about they used to have these two lions that guarded their beautiful pond and they disappeared, and, and they'd never been seen ever since. And right after that article appeared in the paper, then within the next week, the two lions appeared on his doorstep. So, I know, you know, people just decided, "These people probably will never come back, so let's just help ourselves to these things." And then I'm sure that would have happened if, almost all the houses, if no one was there to be living in them. And so, I... in some cases, again, there were Caucasian families that looked after farms like the Kouras and the Rabers and the Cumles and the Ohtakis and things. But most cases it was really the Filipino men that worked for the farmers that looked after the property. So in a lot of ways, Second World War was tough on the Japanese American families, but it gave some of the Filipino families the opportunity to go beyond where they were, 'cause they, they realized that they could.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

Female voice: I just want to ask a question, and I don't know if you could answer it, but it seems like the face of agriculture really changed after the Japanese were taken away to camp. And maybe the Filipinos took up that place in, you know, taking over agriculture for the island. But now agriculture on the island is just almost non-existent. Maybe there's two working farms or something. So, anyway, I was kind of hoping you could talk about that and did the Japanese, after they came back, they saw that it wasn't worth it to run their farms? And was it kind of a slow dissipation or was it pretty abrupt after the war?

FK: Well, I think after the war, when we came back, almost everybody that was farming went back into farming. And in a lot of ways it was really tough because they borrowed all this money to get their plants and things and they were just getting out of the Depression and just getting to where things were profitable and then they lost it all again. So they all pretty much started over. And when they started over, they, again, made the farming industry just really flourishing on the island. But as the years go by, you find that it's harder and harder to get pickers, there's less and less people from, Native Canadians who want to make the long trip down and spend time here picking. The health codes become more and more stringent as far as housing. So you... that's become more of an expense. The weather is always a gamble, berry season on the island used to, used to start in May. But the weather's changed so much now that, that when I was a kid going to school after the war, strawberry season didn't start 'til June. So the, the season's become more compressed. The more it rains, the more the fruit's rotten. The better the crop, the lower the prices. The worse the crop, the less berries you have, the better the prices. So it's almost like you're always, no matter whether you raise a good crap, crop or not, you're always... oh, maybe "crap" was the right word. [Laughs] But it's always like it's a gamble, you know, it's always like a gamble. And, and zoning laws are coming into effect, and farmers are finding that unless they sell off their property before all these zoning laws come into effect, they're not gonna get return for the land they've invested in.

So it got to the point where people decided farming is really a gamble and you're not really making that much money for it, you can get more money from the land. So, people started thinking about either developing their properties or selling their property to developers. And, and the taxes are going up every year on your land. If your farming stays low but, you know, it doesn't, it's still going up. So expenses get higher, it gets harder to get pickers, it gets harder to produce your crop. Expenses are getting higher with fertilizer and all this kind of stuff. And I think eventually the farmers just decided this is not paying off any longer, so they started selling their land. And, and that's their retirement; that's the only thing they have for retirement, is their land. And I think that's why we're down to maybe one large farm right now, which the Suyematsu farm is run by somebody else. And again, people got older, kids who grew up on the farm didn't want to farm, so you didn't have anybody to take over your property for you. It took me years and years and years to want to eat a raspberry, because we had 22 acres of raspberry for so many years and I, and I just took a lotta years before I decided maybe raspberries aren't so bad after all. So, people that are farming now, or starting farming now, it's almost like a hobby for them, and that might survive. But if you really truly want to make a living farming, it's just really hard to do. Unless, unless so many farms go under that you're the only farm left, then maybe you can. But that's kinda the way things are right now.

Female voice: I was going to ask one other question. What was the market for all of the produce that was run by the farmers on Bainbridge? Was it Pike Place Market?

FK: Most of the farming, actually the strawberries, they pretty much had contracted either with National Fruit or... what was it? There was a guy on the island that had a cannery thing. But most of the strawberries went to cannery. So you picked them, you load 'em up in trucks, and you bring 'em to, near the Filipino Hall where the National Fruit Company used to pick up berries, and that made it simple. Before the war there were, they built their own cannery, and used to can 'em and ship 'em off in cans to Seattle. But after the war, it was pretty much contracting with the persons who sold you the plant to, to sell the berries there. My mother, again being unusual, never picked canners. She always picked fresh market berries, for raspberries. So we would pick the berries all day, load 'em up in a truck and bring them to Seattle to United Fruit or Pacific Fruit or one of those places along First Avenue. First, well, it'd be more the southern part of First Avenue. And, and so she would pick fresh market berries, and you'd have to be real careful about doing those 'cause those go out to the grocery stores. And then when that slowed down, she got a contract to pack 'em up, strap 'em up, and ship 'em off to Denver. So our berries would go out, we'd bring our berries out to the airport, and they'd load 'em up on the plane and they'd ship 'em off to Denver. So, and I don't know how she always got these ideas, but that's just kinda the way she was. If something was clogged up, she'd do something else. But, again, you know, you start getting old, plants start getting old, and, and you can't find pickers, and that's why she went to Christmas trees. She didn't have to get pickers -- [laughs] -- and she just had you-pick Christmas trees. So, it was, it was like, it was just, Bainbridge Island was not being that conducive to being an agricultural-type place anymore. It was becoming a bedroom community for Seattle, taxes were going up, you could make more money by building a house on it than growing, growing plants on it. So...

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

JD: As a related question, back when you were talking about how the war hysteria and the fear and the personal greed were a factor in the central valley, where Caucasian people, immigrants, had already established farming before the Japanese were moving over there and showing that they actually could farm better, that wasn't the case was it on Bainbridge, was it? There wasn't a lot of... was there a lot of farming here before the Japanese came over?

FK: There were, there were Caucasian farms, but I don't think it got to the large extent it was until the people of Japanese descent started growing all those berries. I know at one time, Bainbridge probably grew two-thirds of the strawberry crops on, in the state of Washington. So, this was really a big industry here for the island. But, you know, the land was there, they had to take the stumps out and dynamite the stumps out, pull 'em out with horses, clear the land, and, and all that. Most of the places had been clear-cut already except the stumps were still there. So they were willing to purchase land, clear it, cultivate it by horse and, and pulling on those little cultivators you pull behind the horse, plant the plants by hand, carry rocks out. And it was just hard work, but it was profitable to do it 'cause the land was plentiful and it was fertile. So, so it was ideal. That they said... somebody said, "Hey, go to Bainbridge, it's a good place to farm." And the word would get around and people would, would come here. I remember Kay Sakai, now Nakao, used to say, she was in high school, and she could hear her dad clearing the land. 'Cause, you know, they owned all that land where the Catholic church is and where Ordway and all that is, and she said every once in a while she'd hear the dynamite go off, boom, she'd be so embarrassed. [Laughs] Yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

Male voice: I have a question I'd like to talk about, or ask about the war again. Switching gears, can you tell us what the greatest damage was that the internment did to the country?

FK: To the country? Gosh.

Male voice: You know, for the memorial. What's the greatest damage that was done there?

FK: I think the greatest damage the forced removal or being placed in concentration camp did for our country here is that it, it really gets away from what our country stands for. Our country is based on, on the Bill of Rights, people being equal. What makes this country so great and so desirable, desirable for most people isn't how strong it is, how powerful it is, but the opportunity it gives people to, to see each other as being all valued and being equal. And, and I think having something like that happen to us, and also having something like that happen to people of Middle Eastern descent, tells the world that this might not be an ideal place as we thought it was. That it's, that the ideals that we're, this country's based on and was developed by, as far as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and so forth, may be just a piece of paper. And that it's not something that this country stands for. And, and I think those are the things that make this country so special, the United States so special, and that's the real power of, of here, of living here. And, and anything that goes against that... you know, we have our critics tell us that it was a military necessity, there were MAGIC messages that say they were probably gonna recruit spies. And they lose sight of the whole fact that most of those messages were from the Japanese government, not from the Japanese Americans, and they also lose sight of the fact that there could have been a thousand people that were spies for Japan that were Japanese Americans, and that's not a reason for imprisoning a hundred, hundred and twenty thousand people. I mean, if we went by that philosophy, it would mean that every time a person of a certain ethnic group killed somebody, we ought to arrest everybody of that ethnic group, because that person's a killer, so everybody else must be. And that doesn't make sense.

Male voice: So you're hoping the memorial will do what?

FK: So I'm hoping that, that people can see that they have a choice. They have a choice to respond at times of fear or times of, of feeling less than you are to respond in a way other than putting that on other people. And, and although acknowledging that fear or acknowledging the, the wish to protect yourself, that you don't lose sight of the fact that the most important thing is how we relate to each other and how we care for each other. And that all people, no matter what ethnic background, what country they belong to, whatever, should be valued. American life should not be more valuable than a Muslim life.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

Female voice: If we're going to make this fundraising film... can you talk about how the memorial has brought together people on Bainbridge Island and in what ways and, I don't know, what can we talk about that we can celebrate about the memorial project?

FK: I think it's real easy to think of this memorial project being something for, to help Americans of Japanese descent heal, and that it's specifically for them. But it isn't; it's for everybody. It always amazes me when we have projects here on the island, in the Japanese American community, how much we're supported by the rest of the community. I remember being at a teriyaki dinner, and we had four hundred people there. And this guy from Los Angeles came and said, "This is amazing." He said, "You know, when we have these dinners in Los Angeles," he said, "we have a lot of people there, but they're almost all Japanese." He said, "You have... everybody here at this dinner is Caucasian." And I said, "Yeah, that's true." Of course, I didn't have the heart to tell him all the Japanese people were in the kitchen. [Laughs] But, it's true, you know, none of our programs would be successful unless we're supported by the whole island. I mean, the idea of the memorial was not something that we brought up, it was brought up by the Inner Faith Council. And, and they're the ones that told us... members of the Inner Faith Council are the ones that told us that this should be treated as sacred ground. It was, one of the council members had been to a concentration camp area in Arkansas and asked the Native American person there -- 'cause it was on a reservation -- "How come you haven't done anything on this land since the camp was torn down?" And this Native American guy said, "Oh, we'll never touch this place. This is sacred ground." So she came back and said, "Well, you know, this place where you guys left from is sacred ground." And it's... it amazes me, 'cause I remember that first ceremony we had there where all the crows were crowing away and making all this noise and stuff. And they started reading the names of the people that were, were forced off the island. And as soon as they started reading the names, the crows stopped crowing, stopped making noise. And later on this Native American woman came up to us and said, "You know, when you start talking about your ancestors, the ravens stop speaking." And it just made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when she said that, 'cause... so this is something that is for all our children, for kids of Japanese descent because it helps then with identity, it helps them know who they are. But it's also the hopes and the possibilities of what can be, that we do have a choice. Reacting in violence or war or, or spite or all those things, or going beyond fear and reacting in a different way. I mean, that's what heroes are, right? Heroes are people that can get beyond their own fears and think of the other person. And that's who we need in this world is more heroes.

Female voice: Can you tell us who the Inner Faith Council is, for the people who don't know?

FK: Oh, sure. Inner Faith Council is, is made up of churches, synagogues, in the Bainbridge and North Kitsap area where they... I think they meet once a month and they send representatives from their churches to get together and explore things of faith that they can do in common. And that's why we think it's so significant, 'cause they, you know, they came to us and said, "Hey, you should do something out there." 'Course, I don't know if they had in mind what we decided to do, but... but they've been very supportive. And every year they send us a contribution for the memorial, and they've helped us with arrangements of meals and things when we have people come like the timber framers and so forth.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

Female voice: While we're asking that, can you tell us a little bit about BIJAC and how BIJAC started?

FK: Oh, now that's an interesting story. [Laughs] You know, Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community was formed originally in 1952, after the war. And it was kind of a, a loose chapter, kind of modeled after the Japanese American Citizens League, and I think Joe Nakata was the president for about seventeen years. And I think my sister Lilly, who was still in high school, was the secretary of the group. But it became kind of dormant. I think the only transaction they did was to sell the Japanese Hall, which was, at that time, they thought it was a burden, but I think it was really a mistake to sell it. I mean, they sold it for a really small amount of money and we lost this hall and the property's just worth, probably a million by now. But they just saw that as a burden they had to take care of and pay taxes on and so forth. But back in 19... about 1982 or so, three of us Sansei, third-generation, got together and started talking about having an oral history project. And, and it was myself -- and I was the old guy -- and Ron Nakata and... what's his name? Sakai... I can't remember his first name, that's terrible. The, and we met together and tried to start an oral history project and to revive things. And it was mostly because we had been sitting around talking one day and we said, "You know, when we went to school here on the island, there was nothing about Japanese American culture in our school." Never knew that we'd been here since 1883, that we'd cleared most of the land here on the island. If it was cleared it was probably a Japanese American farmer. And that we spent our time in school -- in my case trying to be white -- and not knowing our own history and stuff.

So we decided that we didn't want our kids to go through the same type of stuff again, so we tried to revive a history project. And boy, did we ever get flack. People were upset with us, they called us "angry young men." And, "Why bring up all this stuff and make people upset with us again?" And we were getting nowhere real fast. And then eventually, Don Nakata and Junkoh Harui, who were about five years older than I am anyway, I am, listened in on us and said, "You know, that's not a bad idea," and joined us in wanting to do this. And I think they were probably more willing to listen to them 'cause they had some stature in the community as far as with the stores and, and greenhouses and stuff. And slowly by surely, we got more people to say, "Okay, we'll join in and do this." And as the years went by, people were getting more comfortable in doing this. We did that photo project, that traveling photo exhibit, and that really made a difference 'cause we had something to focus on, as far as gathering pictures and doing text and so forth, so we had a lot of sessions with the text for that. And as the years went by, it just became easier and easier for us to do this.

And, and I know when the Densho project started -- I was on that board when it started -- and they went through the same stuff we did. People that were upset, didn't want to share their information, were real guarded about giving things away, and they were really upset about it. And I told them, "Hey, you know, you've got to do this, we did this. That's what we went through." Except they had bucks so they did it in one year rather than in the ten years it took us to do it. So, but that's, that's kind of the way things started. And we still have people that refuse to talk, we still have people who have never talked about it with their children. But I think each year, more people are finding that they're not gonna live forever and that they need to share some of that story. And we've just had a good group of people. I mean, people say, "How many Japanese Americans do you have living on this island?" And I'm going, "Well, maybe a hundred fifty at the most, and maybe about twenty or thirty were here before the war." They're going, "You're kidding." But it's that small group of people, but everyone just really works hard and I don't think any of us really stops, stops and says to ourselves, "We can't do that." And we've done some things that I just can't believe, and it's because of the, the way, how hard a few group of people have worked at it. And, and it's not only people that have lived here forever and, and... but it's people that have moved to this community and are of Japanese descent. I mean, I talked to, I talked to Mary Koura the other day about being interviewed and she said, "I'm not a Bainbridge Islander." I said, "Well, how long have you been here, Mary?" She said, "Sixty years." [Laughs] And I'm going, "Oh, geez." So it, it's interesting because people kind of think of people that have living here forever as being real special, but we've had people living here for sixty -- and that, and that's kind of sad to me, in a certain way, that they think they've lived here for sixty years but they're a newcomer. So... and the newcomers are doing the work right now, so that's the ones we want. [Laughs]

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.