Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Kiyo Maruyama Interview
Narrator: Kiyo Maruyama
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: October 24, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mkiyo_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Today is Monday, October 24, 2011. We are at the Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown Little Tokyo. We will be interviewing Kiyoshi Maruyama, Tani Ikeda is on the video camera, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. So, Kiyo, I wanted to start with asking about your father. What is your father's name?

KM: His name was Seisaku Maruyama, Seisaku.

MN: And what prefecture did he come from?

KM: He's from Nagano.

MN: Now, before the war, there wasn't a lot of immigration from Nagano-ken to the U.S. Do you know why your father came to the U.S.?

KM: Well, he came first, I think, as a farmhand, then he was working as a farmhand a few years, then he went back to Japan to pick up a bride, and then come back. And that was in about 1920.

MN: Now you said your dad was a farmhand. Do you know where he first landed?

KM: No, it's funny, we never talked about that.

MN: So you said he was a farmhand, but when your mother first came over in about 1920, he wasn't farming, right?

KM: No, he was working for a dry cleaning place in Little Tokyo.

MN: And then so he must have made enough money to want a bride. And did he know your mother before they came out here?

KM: No, I don't think so.

MN: So was this an omiai, arranged marriage?

KM: Probably. I never heard about it.

MN: Was your father able to afford returning to Japan for a bride?

KM: No, I think he went specifically back to find a bride. So I guess from, not correspondence, but, say, baishakunin, I guess, I guess he wanted to take a bride from Japan back to America. So I don't know if he advertised, but word of mouth or going around, but I guess maybe my mother was one of those that accepted the proposition of becoming a bride and going to the United States.

MN: So once they had a wedding, did they come over together or did your father come over first?

KM: I think they came over together.

MN: And yourself, you have this story, where were you conceived and where were you born?

KM: Oh, well, I was conceived probably in Japan because I was born in August of 1920 and I think they came over about March or April of 1920, so I was probably conceived in Japan.

MN: So you could say you were made in Japan?

KM: Yes, made in Japan. [Laughs]

MN: Now where actually were you born?

KM: I was born in Los Angeles.

MN: Where in Los Angeles were you born, specifically?

KM: Oh, specifically Little Tokyo. I forget the name of the hotel, it used to be a hotel for a long time, it was on North San Pedro between First Street and the Union church, it was a hotel, I forgot what the name was.

MN: I know there was an Olympic Hotel there.

KM: Huh?

MN: Was there Olympic Hotel there?

KM: No, it wasn't Olympic. I forgot the name of that hotel. Anyway, in fact, it was a hotel until maybe late '50s or '60s there was a hotel there.

MN: Before they tore it down for Parker Center.

KM: Right.

MN: Do you know if a sambasan delivered you?

KM: Oh, yes. There was no doctors, all it was was a midwife.

MN: Any chance you know your sambasan's name?

KM: No. I think it's on the birth certificate, but I don't have it right now.

MN: Now, I know right now you go by the name of Kiyo or Kiyoshi, but a lot of Niseis picked up, like, English names. Did you ever do that?

KM: All kind of nicknames, but I remember they used to call me Clay 'cause I was caught in Japanese school, I guess, playing with some clay and got reprimanded for that. Other than that, names like George or something, that never stuck. I mean, I never was called anything but maybe, like I say, Clay was usually used when I was about, oh, we went to Japanese school, so it must have been early teens. But it never stuck.

MN: And that was more like a nickname.

KM: Right. But I never was called an English name other than that. I can't think of any name that rings in my mind that I was called, like I say, like George or something.

MN: And I guess none of your teachers said, "Oh, maybe you should change your name"?

KM: No, right.

MN: Now, what was the first language that you learned?

KM: Oh, I think basically, Japanese was our basic language in the house. In fact, my mother never did, my father never got to learn English, so their proficiency in English was very poor. So in the house, strictly Japanese was spoken. The outside, then more or less picked up my English.

MN: Yeah, so if Japanese is spoken at home and that's the first language you spoke, did you have difficulty finding friends or when you started grammar school, did you have problems?

KM: No, it didn't seem like it. I communicated with most of the white guys, very much so.

MN: Now yourself, your mother, you were conceived in Japan and then you were born here, so you would be the first child. Do you have any other siblings?

KM: Yes, I have one sister. She was born in November, 1921.

MN: Where was she born?

KM: I think she must have been born in Glendale.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.