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-

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: So you were born in 1920. Do you know when your parents moved from the hotel in Little Tokyo to Glendale?

KM: Probably in the early '20s, 1921, 1922.

MN: Do you know why they moved to Glendale?

KM: Well, I think the opportunity for work was not very good in Little Tokyo. So I guess gardening and housekeeping was very readily available, and suburb of Los Angeles, Glendale, there were more or less upper middle class people there.

MN: So what did your father, what kind of work did your father, what kind of work did he find in Glendale?

KM: He ended up being a gardener.

MN: Did he buy somebody's route?

KM: Hmm?

MN: Did he buy somebody's gardening route?

KM: Well, I don't know how he picked 'em up, but I imagine he, I guess it was word of mouth, no advertising, just pick 'em up.

MN: Do you know how your father started in gardening? Did he already have his truck and all his equipment?

KM: I don't think so. I think the initial stages was using the customer's, what do you call it, all the tools of the employer, and he just worked for 'em, he probably got around with a bicycle. I don't remember when he bought his first car, but I remember we had a Model T Ford.

MN: When did your family get a Model T Ford?

KM: I can't remember. Probably in the mid-'20s, I guess. 'Cause I had some pictures of the touring sedan that he had, which was, probably reflects, in the mid-'20s, probably.

MN: Now, the house that your family moved to in Glendale, did he purchase that? Did he own it?

KM: Well, eventually he bought the house and he used my name to register the ownership because he couldn't own it. So that probably, that house was probably purchased in the mid-'20s sometime, just before the Depression.

MN: Why couldn't your father own the house?

KM: Huh?

MN: Why couldn't your father own the house?

KM: Oh, at that time, there was no, there was a restriction against selling to Asians, so Asians couldn't -- especially Japanese -- were outlawed from owning any kind of property.

MN: And because you were American-born, you're American citizen.

KM: That's right. I remember the attorney John Mayeno is the one that did all the paperwork.

MN: John Mayeno was already an attorney at that time?

KM: That's right.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Let me ask about your mother now. What kind of work was she doing?

KM: Well, eventually she was doing laundry at home. So they used to, I guess, at first, customers used to bring this laundry over and she used to do all the washing and ironing, and later on, when I was a teenager, I remember I used to drive around and pick up laundry for her.

MN: So when you became a teenager, you helped your mother in that way, but when you were younger, did you have to help your mother?

KM: I helped my mother and dad. He used to take me when he was gardening, some of the heavy work, he'd assign that to me. But mostly I guess I used to help my mother more than my dad, 'cause he used to have a helper, Mexican helper. I didn't have to do as much legwork for him as my mother.

MN: Now you said you did all the heavy work for your father. What's considered heavy work?

KM: Well, like pushing a lawnmower. At that time, we didn't have any mechanized lawnmowers, it was all pushing that Pennsylvania lawnmower to cut the grass, so that was pretty tedious work, tough.

MN: Now, I imagine you had to go to school also. So when did you help your father?

KM: Oh, after school and on Saturdays.

MN: And then when did you help your mother?

KM: Oh, I used to help her in the afternoon after school and at nights, especially like ironing. I was very proficient in ironing shirts. I know I taught a lot of Nisei newlyweds how to iron their husbands' long sleeve white shirts, because back East, you had to wear a tie and jacket to work all the time.

MN: This was, you're talking about later during the war years, you were teaching the Nisei girls how to iron?

KM: See, they never had to do that as much as... because the mother used to do probably all the ironing in the house. The girls were really sort of spoiled.

MN: Now before the war, when your mother was doing this laundry business, did she have to wash everything on those washboards?

KM: Yeah. But about that time she started, one of the early ones to get the washing machine to do that because of the volume of laundry that she had to do.

MN: Now, what did a washing machine before the war look like?

KM: [Laughs] What do you mean?

MN: It doesn't look like what we know today, right?

KM: Oh, I mean, it wasn't... I remember the washing machine in those days, I think it didn't have the dryer or the tumbler-type of thing. It sort of mixed the soap up against the something or other and rotated it a little bit in the washing machine to clean it. I remember it was a very simple type of mechanism compared to today's laundry machines.

MN: Did it take a lot of time? I mean, now you just push a button and you walk away.

KM: That's right. Oh, yeah, I mean, it took a lot of time. Then after, then maybe most of it was using the soap and sort of mixing that with the clothes there, get it clean and then all the drying was done on the outside on the laundry, clothesline, we used to have a wire clothesline in the backyard that was probably about, oh, maybe ten rows of wires so that we can hang the clothes to dry. Especially like sheets and stuff like that, they're pretty big.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: Now let me ask you about your school a little. Which grammar school did you attend?

KM: The name of the grammar school was called Horace Mann school in Glendale.

MN: What was the ethnic makeup of the student population there?

KM: Oh, I would say there were probably ninety percent whites, maybe four or five percent Mexicans, and that was about it. And then Orientals, maybe one or two percent.

MN: How were you treated there since there were so few Asians?

KM: Well, I didn't feel any kind of discrimination in the schools, per se. But socially I didn't get invited to the kids', other kids' birthday parties. Like my kids' generation, where you invite all the classmates and all that, I never experienced that in grammar school.

MN: And this grammar school, was it very far, were you able to walk? How did you get to grammar school?

KM: Well, it was about a mile, mile and a half, I guess. I used to walk it.

MN: Now you mentioned that Horace Mann was predominately hakujin. So when you were growing up as a child, who were your playmates?

KM: Huh?

MN: Who were your playmates, where they hakujin or Japanese Americans, the kids that you played with?

KM: Oh, mostly all whites. There probably wasn't any... I don't think there was any Japanese in my class except myself. So all the guys I associated with in the same grade were all white kids.

MN: So growing up in Glendale, what did you do for fun with your friends?

KM: Well, I used to go out and play with the white guys, and get in all kinds of trouble, too, I guess. But it was, at that time, I think the white kids didn't have any, much discrimination against Orientals as it is today.

MN: So when you said you used to get into all kinds of things, share with us some of the things. Like you mentioned this old water reservoir.

KM: Oh, yeah. Well, there was an old abandoned reservoir across the street from me which eventually was made into a park. But most of the time it was abandoned, it rained, it used to fill up with water, so we used to get some big wooden boards and float it around in the reservoir. And then in the summertime when all the water was dried up, the younger kids and older guys used to take their motorcycle and go around the edges of the reservoir, they're having a lot of fun.

MN: And you were sharing about how you went to this milk farm, and you folks were swimming around in the milk farm area?

KM: Oh, you mean Roger Jessup used to have, they used to have a milk farm. And so they used to have a big lake there where I guess the cows used to paddle in. Anyway, we used to go swimming there, and we used to call it "Cow Piss Lake." But there was, the only other place that we could swim was part of the L.A. River, there were some pools of water that sort of became like our swimming hole.

MN: Was the L.A. River at that time all concrete as it is now?

KM: No. No, it was not all concrete, it was... well, it was, I guess part of it was concrete, but anyway, places or segments of the river where large water would pool and make it sort of like a little lake. But that was a little further down from Roger Jessup's cow lake, so we used to ride our bicycles down there.

MN: Any other memories you have of what sort of things you did while you were growing up in Glendale?

KM: Not really specifically, no.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Let me ask you about your Japanese language school experience. Do you remember from what, around what age your parents enrolled you in a Japanese language school?

KM: When the heck was it? I guess while we were still in grammar school, there used to be a pickup of a bus. It used to pick us up after school about three-thirty or so, and anyway, the name of the school was Daiichi Gakuen... four, I don't know what name it is, but anyway, it's called "Daiichi," "fourth," Gakuen. And it was, there was about maybe a hundred fifty students there from all over Glendale, and they came from maybe in the valley there like Burbank and North Hollywood.

MN: And where was Daiichi Gakuen located?

KM: It was located right on the border of Los Angeles and Glendale, sort of on the, over the fence. There was a fence around the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, and it was about a couple blocks away from that property line of the cemetery. I don't know whatever happened to the property, because nobody ever talked about why it was never reopened after the war. So I don't know, maybe it was never owned by anybody, or it was confiscated by somebody.

MN: Now, did you attend Daiichi Gakuen every day or just Saturdays?

KM: No, I used to go after school, so I used to, yeah, we have daily, or seemed like it was daily.

MN: Oh, that's right, you did tell me. The bus took you there after regular school.


MN: Now, how old were you when you transferred from Daiichi Gakuen to Chuo Gakuen?

KM: Oh, it must have been about twelve, thirteen... yeah, might be about thirteen, teenager. I wasn't getting, I don't know, my mother was, I guess, was very disappointed in what was I learning Japanese, or going to Japanese school, Daiichi Gakuen, so she wanted me to enroll in Chuo Gakuen which was more of a stricter, so I used to, so she made me transfer from Daiichi over to Chuo. And I used to go there after school, too.

MN: But, now, Chuo Gakuen is in Boyle Heights?

dKM: Right.

MN: And then Daiichi Gakuen is in Little Tokyo. Wouldn't Daiichi Gakuen be closer to you?

KM: Well, I guess because she knew some teachers that were teaching at Chuo that would probably be more stricter than Daiichi Gakuen.

MN: Now can you share with us how you got to Chuo Gakuen after school?

KM: Oh, yeah. I used to ride a bicycle to the steetcar, which was about maybe a couple miles from the house. I think it was the Yellow Car, the F Car, and pick up that, I used to go to Eagle Rock from downtown, and I used to take that F Car to Yellow Car Little Tokyo and transfer over to the P Car, the streetcar that used to go to Boyle Heights. We used to use that.

MN: How long did it take you to do all this transfer?

KM: I don't know. It used to probably take me about a good hour probably.

MN: So after school you took an hour to get to Boyle Heights, then you went to Japanese school, then another hour to get home?

KM: That's right.

MN: You mentioned it was supposed to be a lot stricter. Was Chuo Gakuen a lot stricter than Daiichi Gakuen?

KM: The what?

MN: You mentioned that Chuo Gakuen was a lot stricter. Was it actually stricter?

KM: Yeah. They were a little more stricter than Daiichi. I think we had more teachers, so the classes were smaller. At Daiichi Gakuen, I think the enrollment of students in one class is too many, so you didn't get the attention that the teachers could give you.

MN: Did they make you, at Chuo Gakuen, make you memorized the Kyoiku Chokugo?

KM: What?

MN: The Kyoiku Chokugo, the Meiji education edict?

KM: [Laughs] I forgot. I don't remember.

MN: How did you feel about having to go to a Japanese language school when your hakujin friends didn't have to go to another school?

KM: No, well, they didn't even think about it, I guess. But I guess the Nisei philosophy, when your parents tell you to do something this way and that way, well, you did it. You didn't have the power to do any, make any decisions on your own, that it shouldn't be done that way or something. So if my mother told me to go to Chuo Gakuen, I went. If it was something that maybe was detrimental to my health or well-being or something like that, that I felt it was wrong, then maybe I could voice my... but all these things that she was trying to do were for the betterment of myself.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now let me ask you about the martial arts. Did you take judo or kendo?

KM: Yes, judo. I took judo when I was, I guess from about age, a teenager I guess, 'til oh, maybe up to the time I was about eighteen or seventeen, eighteen, I graduated from high school, I used to do, go to judo, and we used to have matches with various other dojos, too.

MN: Now, which judo dojo did you go to?

KM: Oh, I don't remember the name of it. It was in Glendale. Maybe only about three or four blocks from my house, there was a dojo.

MN: So you just walked to the dojo?

KM: Uh-huh, right, or ride a bike.

MN: How many times a week were classes held?

KM: I guess at least once a week.

MN: Was this dojo next to a community center?

KM: No, it was... no, it was all by itself. No community center.

MN: Do you remember the sensei's name?

KM: No.

MN: Did this judo dojo have any girl students?

KM: No.

MN: What ranking were you able to reach in judo?

KM: What's my... I never did get to be shodan, one below that. Ikyu.

MN: Now you mentioned the shiai. How often and where did you have the shiai?

KM: Well, we used to have, I remember like in Little Tokyo you had Rafu Dojo or whatever you want to call it, and they had a bit arena type of place, so we used to have various matches with them and some other dojos that were outskirts of L.A. But I guess the tournaments were, well, I wasn't good enough to be in the upper tournaments, so most of 'em were team efforts. [Laughs]

MN: Now did your father take you to the shiais at the Rafu Dojo?

KM: Huh?

MN: Did your father take you to the shiai when it was at the Rafu Dojo?

KM: Oh, yeah.

MN: What did you folks do after the competitions?

KM: What did we do? I don't remember.

MN: I mean, did you go into Little Tokyo and have a --

KM: Oh, probably, we probably had dinner or something out in Little Tokyo, yeah.

MN: Now, did knowing judo help you in other ways like at your regular school? Did you ever have to defend yourself?

KM: Oh, yeah. I used to, I didn't practice it, but it's to defend yourself, yeah. I used to get in, once in a while, get in a fight with the white guys, but I don't know why, but I've gotten bloody noses from being hit by some of the kids.

MN: Now you had one particular fight your senior year in high school.

KM: Uh-huh, yeah. I had a fight with a kid, and then I remember we used to have a graduation sweater that used to have a class year on it, on the side, so that you could wear it senior year in high school. And I think I got in a fight with this kid and he gave me a bloody nose and I was wearing that sweater, so I got blood all over it. So I didn't want my mother to know what happened so I washed it with hot water. And the wool shrunk on me, so I had to throw it away. But she was wondering what happened to the sweater.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now other than like the judo, shiai, and you going through Little Tokyo to go to Chuo Gakuen, how often did you go, did you and your family go into Little Tokyo?

KM: Oh, I'd say we probably went down there once a week or so. I think that grocery shopping, the things that my mother wanted were, so she'd go, went down to shop in Little Tokyo. So maybe we used to have more, go down and have dinner. And I remember one time when, my first experience of going to lunch with my dad, you could go in there for two bits or something like that and get a meal. But his favorite dish was hamyu at this restaurant, Far East or something. Order hamyu and napa soup and two bowls of rice, I think it was not more than two bits or fifty cents.

MN: For those who didn't grow up with hamyu, what is hamyu?

KM: Well, it's a mixture of pork fat and... what do you call it? Funyu. And I don't know how you make it, but I remember my dad used to make it and freeze it. And I remember, I think he was about eighty-five or eighty something years old when the doctor told me to, "Tell your dad to cut down on his eating of that hamyu." And I told the doctor, "When you're eighty or eighty-five years old, you don't tell the guy what he can't eat or not. Let him enjoy life." [Laughs]

MN: Like and on these visits, did your father treat you to anything special like candy? Did he buy you little things like that at all?

KM: No, I don't recall, but I imagine I had my share of candies. I still like candy.

MN: Now at home, what kind of food did you eat? Was it Japanese food or American food?

KM: You mean at home?

MN: At home.

KM: Predominately, my mother was all Japanese food, all kinds. And then once in a while she learned how to make an English dish, well, she may have made it, but that's very rare. She's used to making Japanese food, so she might as well do things that are easier for her.

MN: So by "Japanese dish," you have rice, and what else did you have? What kind of okazu did she make?

KM: Well, we had a lot of fish dishes. I think Japanese, they would love the fishes, so I like fish today.

MN: Where did she purchase the fish from?

KM: Huh?

MN: Where did your mother purchase the fish?

KM: Well, the fish, you couldn't store it, but we used to have what they call icebox, so we used to get a delivery man to unload a block of ice in the, what they call icebox, not a refrigerator. And then store there, but we used to have a fish man that had, we used to go around to the various Japanese neighborhoods and sell fresh fish off of his truck. And so she used to patronize that one, too.

MN: Did he sell other items other than fish?

KM: Oh, yeah. He probably carried rice and some other Japanese staples.

MN: What kind of fish did you mostly eat?

KM: Fruit?

MN: Fish.

KM: Fish? Oh, fish, well, it was sashimi, predominately tuna, and sea bass, any kind of fish, you name it. Octopus, too, oyster, abalone, everything that's sort of scarce today.

MN: You had oysters, huh?

KM: Oysters are getting scarce.

MN: Now, did your family eat a lot of meat?

KM: No, I would say that probably not as much as the Caucasians. Because it was mostly, my mother wasn't very... what do you call it, efficient cook that would cook a nice roast or something like that. She never had time for it 'cause she was running that laundry. So anything that was quickly, so the meats would always usually be fried or something like that.

MN: Now I know you weren't living on a farm, but did you keep chickens?

KM: No, I remember... when I came back from the army, my dad used to raise rabbits for meat. But he didn't have the heart to kill 'em, so he had to ask a friend of his to come over and do the killing for him. [Laughs] But he used to sell the dang fur, I remember, to somebody.

MN: What does rabbit taste like?

KM: Hmm?

MN: What does rabbit taste like?

KM: Tastes like chicken. About the same taste.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Now when you were growing up, did your parents have a separate little Japanese vegetable garden?

KM: Not too much. They didn't have time to do any farming like that. So they both worked all the time.

MN: And when you were growing up, once again, I know you're not on a farm, but did you have flushing toilets?

KM: Flushing toilet? Yeah. In the house that my dad bought, he bought that, I think, in 1923 or '24. Yeah, we had a flushing toilet.

MN: How about a ofuro?

KM: No, no ofuro.

MN: All inside the tub, you had a...

KM: Just a bathtub, we used a bathtub.

MN: Did your father ever take you down to the public baths in Little Tokyo?

KM: Oh, I never went to... I can't remember when I was a kid going to a public bath, but I think my dad used to go. He used to love Nihonburo, so if he didn't have a chance at home, he'd go down to J-town and probably when he'd get a haircut or something like that, he probably was always prone to take a bath there, too.

MN: How about the hot springs at White Point? Did your family go?

KM: Yeah, my dad used to take us down to White Point and then later on, there used to be some other onsens that the Issei used to go to. But I never used to go.

MN: What other onsen was around here locally than at White Point?

KM: Oh, there was... gee, what's the name of it? You know around the outskirts of the L.A. County. Gee, what was it? I forgot the names of 'em. But maybe that was later on after the evacuation and war, I think, when people came back, they used to find places that had hot springs.

MN: How about Brighton Beach? Did your family go down to Brighton Beach?

KM: I think that was, as a kid, that was my only vacation spot that I ever knew was Brighton Beach. We used to go down there and set up a tent and stay, maybe the biggest thing was Labor Day weekend.

MN: You set up a tent and what did you do out there? Did you go swimming?

KM: We went swimming and bathe in the sun, that's about it.

MN: Did you go fishing?

KM: No, not at Brighton Beach. It was more of a... what do you call it? Swimming hole type of thing, and relaxing. Then bumping into a lot of Japanese families used to go there, it was a meeting point for get-togethers, I guess, or for the weekend, big, long-term holidays.

MN: Did you have any interaction with the Terminal Islanders?

KM: No, not too much. Since living in Glendale, I didn't have anything... in fact, I didn't even know where Terminal Island was, probably, growing up.

MN: Now you were sharing about the speech you gave about visiting Brighton Beach. Can you share with us the story?

KM: [Laughs] Oh, I think that the, we had to, in the auditorium, we used to have... had to make talks about what we did on our vacation. So I think my turn came up one time, and so in the auditorium I gave my talk about spending Labor Day weekend at Brighton Beach and what I did. And I used to say that we had, the waves were so big and so on. But when I talked about the waves, instead of saying "ten feet" or whatever it was, waves coming in, I said, "ten inches." So everybody was laughing because I didn't know the difference between inches and feet.

MN: And this was at Horace Mann?

KM: Yeah.

MN: Now as you got older, did you go to Brighton Beach more often, I mean, more often than Labor Day weekend?

KM: Well, when I got to be a teenager, we used to go down there, to... yeah. But, well, Brighton Beach was more a family affair, so even as a teenager I used to go down there.

MN: Now I wanted to ask you about your experience with the Boy Scouts of America. When did you join, and can you share about this experience you had?

KM: Well, when I was twelve, my neighbor kids, some of 'em, I think about three or four of us decided to join the Boy Scouts of America, and it was American Legion troop in Glendale was the sponsor. And I think I was in that troop for about six months, and then we had a social gathering with the sponsors, the Legion people. And when that session was... we had the social end of it, some Legionnaire got up and was saying, "What the hell is that Jap doing in this hall?" So that was the end of my Boy Scout career. So anyway, all my friends also just walked out of the hall. So they were backing me up, anyway. That's the first time I really felt discrimination. It wasn't a very good feeling, anyway.

MN: Now, this Boy Scout troop in Glendale was associated with the American Legion, and then during World War II, you were in the U.S. Army. Later, did you ever join the VFW or the American Legion?

KM: Oh, I joined the VFW, but I remember Fuzzy Fukui was instrumental in forming the American Legion. But I told him about the story [inaudible] so that I couldn't get myself to join the American Legion.

MN: Now, you grew up during the Great Depression. How did this affect your family financially?

KM: That's why I say that I think our family was fortunate enough that they're doing work that didn't have a recession type of thing during that time. So we didn't suffer like other families that lost their jobs and something like that. People that were doing, sending their laundry and stuff like that still sent their laundry. And then the gardeners, they were still maintaining the garden.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Can you tell me what your parents' schedule, like work schedule was like? Did they have to work seven days a week?

KM: Oh, I'd say my mother was, used to work about seven days a week. My dad used to take Saturdays, I mean, Sundays off, but he used to work Saturdays here. I used to have to help him a little bit on Saturdays sometimes, yeah.

MN: And then you said he had an assistant?

KM: Huh?

MN: Your father had an assistant?

KM: Yeah. He used to do a lot of the, most of the heavy work. My dad was... he was pretty sharp and he hired somebody to do the heavy work, though. [Laughs] 'Cause I remember he used to not take his lunch like other gardeners that take their lunch. He used to come home, and during the time that he came home for lunch, he'd take a nap, maybe half an hour or so and then go back. But he'd have the worker do the, working on where he was doing. So he knew how to take it easy. [Laughs]

MN: Was your father on the older side, is that why he had to...

KM: No, no. He was the second son of a big family, so he knew he, I guess the, usually the Japanese custom, the first son gets everything, and the second son and the rest of 'em were all out the front door. When they get of age, well, they're on their own. So that's why I guess he sort of immigrated to the United States.

MN: Well, you mentioned your dad came home for lunch. Does that mean all his customers were close by?

KM: Oh, yeah. I mean, they were all in Glendale. I don't think he ever went outside. I don't recall him going outside of Glendale.

MN: Now, your parents, your father or your mother, did they drink?

KM: Huh?

MN: Did they drink? Did your parents drink?

KM: Oh, he had, I never saw him drunk, but he did drink sake, that's right. He was a lover of tea. I remember every night he used to, before he'd go to sleep, he'd have a couple glasses of tea, green tea. So I used to join him, and so I have that habit of drinking a lot of tea at night.

MN: That doesn't affect your sleep?

KM: Huh? It doesn't affect my sleep. But now, at my age, I have to get up every couple hours at night. [Laughs]

MN: How about smoking? Did your father or mother smoke?

KM: Yeah, he smoked a little bit, but he wasn't... yeah, he smoked. Yeah, he smoked. But I think he was an off and on type of smoker. I remember he used to have his Bull Durham and roll his own cigarette and take a couple puffs and that was it. He wasn't a very good roller of it.

MN: Did he have you help him roll the cigarette when you were a child?

KM: No, I don't recall him having a machine or anything like that to roll his cigarettes, so he can have a nice-looking cigarette where he can make maybe five or six puffs, maybe ten puffs a cigarette. But most of his puffs were a couple puffs and that was it because it would fall apart.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, I want to ask you about your trip to Japan. What year did you visit Japan?

KM: The first time I went to Japan was when I was nine in 1929. I remember there was two main Japanese liners at that time, there was NYK and Osaka Shosen, there's the other one. But I think fare was cheaper for the Osaka Shosen. The fare was cheaper so we took that one, and that was from San Pedro, went directly to Yokohama. I think that NYK line used to stop off in Hawaii, and there was a little bigger ship, I think.

MN: Did your entire family go?

KM: Well, my mother took my sister and I, so my dad stayed home.

MN: What was the reason for the visit?

KM: Well, I think my mother wanted me to, for me to meet my grandmother, 'cause she was still alive at that time.

MN: So when your mother told you that you're gonna go to Japan, how did you feel?

KM: [Laughs] Oh, how did I feel? I didn't have anything. I just assumed that this was the thing to do. 'Cause I had no choice of that matter because of being only nine years old. You couldn't say you didn't want to go type of thing.

MN: Now on this trip on the Osaka Shosen, did you get seasick?

KM: Oh, yeah, I got seasick. In fact, I think everybody on the ship got seasick except for my sister and another man. They're the only ones that used to go up to the dining hall for the meals. [Laughs]

MN: Now what class did you ride in? First or second or third class?

KM: Oh, the steerage class, the lowest, because we were down at the bottom of the ship. And I think I was sleeping on a cot that was a triple decker or four decker. I was on the top of the deck, anyway, on the bed, so I used to have a yo-yo, and all during the trip that's all I was playing with.

MN: Now when you landed in Yokohama, what was your first impression of Japan?

KM: It's hard to say. I didn't have any opinion. It was finally, I think the biggest thing was I was glad to get my foot on the ground. I was seasick all during the time of the trip. so land felt real good.

MN: Now from Yokohama, how did you get to Nagano?

KM: Oh, I think it was, Nagano was, I guess my cousin or her relatives met us at Yokohama and took us, we had to take a train or something like that, probably, to Nagano.

MN: Do you have any memories of the train ride?

KM: No, not really.

MN: How long were you in Japan?

KM: Let's see, May, June, July, August... five months. We left in May, about a month before school was out, 'cause I think that boat ride to Yokohama is probably over twenty days, darn near three weeks to get to Japan, so you're spending most of your time on the ship to getting there. So I think it was about May that we left and came back in September.

MN: Now did you visit your mother's family or your father's family?

KM: Mostly my mother's family. We stayed with them where my mother was living. And so we stayed most of the time that we're there.

MN: Now I've heard stories when Niseis, when they went to Japan, they had problems with the water and would get sick. Did you get sick?

KM: Oh. No, I didn't get sick, but my sister, I remember she got some blisters or something, drinking the water there. But it didn't bother me.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Now what were some of the first things you did when you arrived at your mother's place?

KM: I can't remember.

MN: Did you do ohakamairi?

KM: Oh, definitely. In fact, every trip I made to Japan, after that was, the first thing I did was, you have to do is go ohakamairi. I think it's SOP for anybody that visits the relatives in Japan.

MN: What's SOP?

KM: Standard Office Procedure.

MN: Now when you went to go visit your relatives, how much Japanese did you speak?

KM: Oh, I could converse with them because I was using Japanese predominately in the home. So I could communicate with my mother, so I didn't have any problems communicating with the relatives in Japanese.

MN: How about the other kids who were there? Did they tease you?

KM: Huh?

MN: The kids who were there.

KM: Oh, yeah. They used to call me "white man," gaijin. And we used to throw rocks at each other... they were, the kids in Japan really treated me not too good. They were very mean.

MN: Did you ever get into a full-fledged fight?

KM: No, not no fights. I remember when I was in Japan, when my mother put us in... put me, anyway, into Japanese school there to attend classes, and so I used to have to mix in with the other students of my age, but they were way beyond me. Because I guess the language was a barrier because I wasn't that proficient in Japanese language. But anyway, in Japan, the students GI the floors of the school all the time. So every Saturday, we used to GI [inaudible] for the floors of the school, so I used to have a big audience watching me scrub the dang floor in the school. It was curiosity, and I would be lowering myself, I guess, to the menial work of scrubbing floors.

MN: So when you're scrubbing these floors, you mean all these kids are watching you?

KM: Yeah, there was a bunch of kids watching me, right.

MN: Because you were from America?

KM: That's right, that's right.

MN: How did the teachers treat you?

KM: Oh, teachers, I can't recall any animosity or anything like that, but the teachers, they treated me just as any other student, I think. I can't remember any derogatory remarks that they made to me, that made me feel uncomfortable.

MN: Now were you the only Nisei at this school?

KM: Oh, yes. I think so. 'Cause I was a curious object. Being a gaijin and having a Japanese face, speaking some sort of semi-broken Japanese. [Laughs]

MN: And I guess because Nagano did not have a lot of immigration to the U.S., so there wasn't a lot of Niseis going over there.

KM: Oh, no, that's right.

MN: Did you have to wear a school uniform?

KM: No.

MN: Do you remember what the scheduling was at school when you got to school? What were some of the first things you had to do?

KM: What's this now?

MN: When you got to the Japanese school, what did you do? Did you have to gather...

KM: I can't remember, 'cause those details, yeah, right.

MN: The things like bowing towards the east, do you remember any of those things?

KM: We might have had to, yeah. But specifically, I can't remember.

MN: What did you do after school?

KM: Did I play? I played, but I don't know what I played with. I used to get in sort of a hassle with my cousins. They're much older than I. I remember one time I got in a fight with my cousin, and I don't know how I got some of this clothes or something like that, I threw it on the creek in front of the house. So I threw the darn, his clothes down there. So he had to run down there and try to chase that clothes.

MN: What other memories do you have of your time in Japan?

KM: The economy?

MN: No, what other memories do you have?

KM: Oh, memories? Not too much. Especially when you're only nine, it's pretty hard to remember. Unless it stands out in your mind, I can't remember, recall anything that's really outstanding that I can remember.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: How about your trip back to Los Angeles? Did you get seasick again?

KM: I can't remember, but I know I was seasick going, so I must have been seasick coming back.

MN: Did the ship land in San Pedro?

KM: Probably.

MN: Who was there to pick you up?

KM: My dad.

MN: Now let me go back to asking you about your regular school. Which junior high school did you attend?

KM: The name of the school was Roosevelt junior high school.

MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of Roosevelt?

KM: Oh, it's about the same as the grammar school, probably over ninety percent white and a small percentage of Mexicans and Orientals.

MN: And how were you treated here?

KM: I mean, I didn't have any problems. Like I say, socially, never mixed with... see, socially mixing with say the girls, we didn't do any of that. 'Cause I don't know, just one of those things, I guess. Fellows, socially I mixed with them at the school very good, but you talk about birthday parties or something like that, even the fellows' family, were never invited.

MN: Now when you were growing up, what kind of lunches did you bring to school?

KM: I used to make my own lunch because my mother was always working, so we had to learn how to make our own lunches to take to school. So predominately, I can always remember that I made sandwiches. None of this musubi stuff that most of the kids there talk about prewar days, taking sushi or musubis to school. Not me. I made my sandwiches, bought some ham and lettuce and mayonnaise and put 'em in the, between two slices of bread, and that was my lunch. And then maybe have a fruit or something that, and then brown bag it to school.

MN: Did you eat in the school cafeteria?

KM: I don't recall ever eating in the school cafeteria. I don't know why, but I always thought that that was for the rich people. [Laughs]

MN: Now from Roosevelt junior high school, which high school did you go to?

KM: I went to Glendale junior high school in Glendale.

MN: And was the ethnic makeup about the same?

KM: Yeah, because of the bigger enrollment, but it was ninety-some-odd percent, I'd say, white, and then a few percentage of Mexicans and Asians. But no blacks. I don't know... Glendale was very discriminatory. I remember they had a law that something, wasn't a law, but the police would escort colored domestic workers if it became a little dark, would make 'em get in the patrol wagon and they'd escort 'em out to the city limits to catch the bus home. So they're really very discriminatory city.

MN: So you're saying that Glendale, after dark, there was supposed to be no African Americans?

KM: That's right. No African Americans after dark. So you wouldn't have anybody living there. That's why I didn't say anything about percentage of negroes in the high school or the junior high school.

MN: Did you yourself have any negative experiences with the Glendale police?

KM: No. They were all civil, but that's why I never had run into any kind of discrimination that obviously really hit me.

MN: Now in high school, how did you do academically?

KM: Well, I was, I didn't get all As and Bs, that's for sure. But I guess I was above average, a little bit. But so I went from high school, instead of college, I went to a junior college in Glendale.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Now, I'm gonna ask you a few more things about high school. Did you get involved in any sports?

KM: Oh, yeah, I used to play B football. Then I was, I played, went out for the baseball team and couldn't make the grade, so I was equipment manager. And that year, the last year there were, we won the California championship, so I got a little gold baseball for my keychain.

MN: Now as an equipment manager, what did you have to do?

KM: Oh, take care of the, all the equipment, like the bases and the bats and the catcher's paraphernalia, make sure that they got to the ballpark, and take it with us to the various place that we played.

MN: Now when you traveled with the team, did you have any problems from any harassment when you traveled with them?

KM: No, I didn't have any problems traveling.

MN: Were you the only Japanese American on that team?

KM: That's right.

MN: How about your football B Team?

KM: B Team, same, no Japanese. I was the only one.

MN: How did the other teammates treat you?

KM: No, I didn't have any problem. They treated me just like any other ballplayer that I can remember. I didn't feel any discrimination.

MN: So you're the equipment manager for your varsity baseball team. Were you involved in any of the Nisei baseball leagues?

KM: No, no.

MN: How about in high school? Were you involved in any student government?

KM: No, I didn't, wasn't very active in the school government, no.

MN: Now I think it was during your high school years that the Nikkei community in Glendale built their first Christian church. Is that correct?

KM: Yeah, there was a Mrs. Van Loon, that was the name of the woman that, white woman that started Sunday school classes, and then from there, the church, I guess, grew. I guess the kid became more of teenagers and I think, yeah, I guess became, we became adults then, too. So I used to go to Christian church every Sunday.

MN: Were your parents Christians?

KM: No, my parents were Zen Shuji, Buddhist. But they didn't object to anything about going to Christian Sunday school.

MN: Now, when you started to go to the Christian Sunday school, how did your social life change?

KM: Well, the social life seems to change. You get involved with other Nisei, so my circle of friends socially became more among the Japanese instead of the Caucasian. I think that started around high school days when the church was formed. We got more Japanese get-togethers.

MN: Now I know roller skating was very popular during your time. Did you go roller skating?

KM: Yeah, Shrine Auditorium was a hangout on Sunday nights that people used to go down there, so I used to go down there, too. I think meet various people, especially girls. So we'd go down there to mix with 'em.

MN: So this Sunday night when you go down there, was it all Japanese Americans?

KM: Mostly predominately. There are probably a few Caucasians there that were socially integrated with the Niseis, yeah. But predominately it was Niseis.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now, your high school, what year did you graduate from..

KM: 1938, summer of '38.

MN: Now after graduating from high school, what did you do?

KM: After graduating from high school? Oh, I enrolled in Glendale junior college, so I was there for two years.

MN: What did you major in there?

KM: Oh, I was majoring in civil engineering, but I changed that later on.

MN: Why did you pick civil engineering?

KM: Oh, I really didn't like it, but my uncle always was trying to indoctrinate me that most of the graduates of college at that time were all graduating with honors and all that, but they could never get a job. So my uncle was telling me that there was golden opportunities in Manchuria. So that, "You got to go to something that would be beneficial to getting a job in Manchuria." And so Manchuria was being developed, so civil engineering was more or less the construction end of it. So that's why I chose it, so route I should take. So that's why I enrolled in civil engineering.

MN: Now you said that you went to Glendale junior college for two years, and then from there where did you go?

KM: I went up to Cal Berkeley.

MN: Now why did you decide... why didn't you go straight to Cal Berkeley from high school?

KM: Huh?

MN: Why didn't you go straight to Cal Berkeley from high school?

KM: Oh, I couldn't afford it. Besides, I guess... well, I don't know why, but I thought it was easier for me to spend two years at junior college and then transfer to Berkeley than to go directly from high school to Berkeley.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Okay, before I started to get into your Berkeley years, I want to go back to your childhood a little bit more. Can you tell me how involved your family was in the Nagano Kenjinkai?

KM: Yeah. My folks were really outgoing, 'cause they used to work so hard, I guess, mostly trying to make a living. But in Nagano prefecture kenjinkai, I don't think, I can't recall my dad taking a position as one of the sponsors or officers of the kenjinkai. So they were, what do you call it, helpers, but not leaders of that kenjinkai association.

MN: Did the kenjinkai have an annual picnic?

KM: Oh, yeah. I used to go... in fact, I guess since Nagano was such a small prefecture that they didn't have any -- they used to have their picnics the same time as Hiroshima or Kumamoto or Fukuoka, and we used to be sort of on the outskirts outside of the big kenjinkais' picnic. I think they probably used to pay the kenjinkai for the opportunity to be associated in that, for the prizes and for the entertainment probably.

MN: Now, what kind of food did your mother make for the obento to take to the picnics?

KM: Oh, she used to make the regular bento, sushi and your... and the various, what do you call it, goodies, the kind of stuff that they used to make for picnics. She used to do the same thing.

MN: Teriyaki...

KM: Yeah, teriyaki beef and chicken, and some vegetables that... sato imo, you name it. They had their favorite dishes, I guess.

MN: What were some of the favorite dishes from Nagano-ken?

KM: Oh, there was nothing in particular that I can remember that being strictly a Nagano-ken. Nagano-ken is more or less noted for their soba. 'Cause I guess being in the country and farmers, they grew a lot of buckwheat.

MN: How about the undokai? what kind of activities did they have for the undokai?

KM: Undokai? You mean at picnics?

MN: Uh-huh.

KM: Oh, just to keep the kids and stuff like that, I guess, in line. They have these races and they give out various prizes, so keeps the kids all tied up in that. So when they're smaller, it's okay, but I guess as they grew older, it was a little different.

MN: Did you win a lot of prizes in these?

KM: No, I didn't win anything. I was too slow. [Laughs]

MN: Did the Nagano Kenjinkai have separate smaller picnics?

KM: No, most of the time it was associated with the bigger ones so that it'd be more or less more fun. I mean, if you had a smaller picnic, they had to do a lot of the work, I guess, for the same number of people as the big ones.

MN: But you were mentioning that sometimes you went to San Gabriel River?

KM: Yeah. I remember when I was a kid, we used to... in fact, it was the days of the Model... my dad and I, Model T Ford which would be in the late '20s, I guess, that we used to go to the San Gabriel River for picnics. And there was maybe a picnic, well, it wasn't a kenjinkai or anything like that, but a few of the family friends get together and go down there and do little fishing, little fishes.

MN: Did the Nagano Kenjinkai organize any other events?

KM: No, they weren't very... leaders in the whole Japanese kenjinkai association, I guess. 'Cause they were too small.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Let's see, how about Japanese movies? When you were growing up, did your parents take you to see Japanese movies?

KM: Not too much. I got used to seeing a lot of Japanese movies after the war when I was there, and that was probably in the late '40s and early '50s.

MN: Now, before the war, though, if you had gone to the Japanese movies, where would you, where were they being shown?

KM: Oh, most of the time, you had a couple theaters in Little Tokyo, but once in a while I think the Japanese school used to put on a movie, some kind of a movie, and then show it to the gakuen people. But I can't recall, maybe one or two that I can recall that they had, but they were not too often.

MN: How about the Japanese navy ships that used to come to the port? Did your father or mother go down to entertain them?

KM: Yeah, we used to... if there were some sailors that were from that particular prefecture, Nagano-ken, especially, they would be notified about the sailors that are from Nagano that were in that ship. So we'd go down there and we'd pick 'em up and entertain 'em for that particular day or something, or take them out to eat or something like that, that's right.

MN: And did they take you along also?

KM: Hmm?

MN: Did they take you along?

KM: Uh-huh, yeah.

MN: How did you feel about these trips?

KM: No, I didn't... I just was tagging along. I didn't have any feeling, I just wondered, I never did... I knew that there was, we should be entertaining some of these guys from the ship, but for the reason, for what, I don't know. I never analyzed it.

MN: Let me ask you a little bit about Nisei Week before the war. What was Nisei Week like?

KM: well, Nisei Week, I had very little to do with it. I was an outsider, and maybe, I think it was in the early '30s that they started it. But I just went down to Nisei Week because of the events as a sort of spectator. And I didn't get involved with Nisei Week until after the war.

MN: Now if you compared Nisei Week now to what it was like before the war, were there more activities before the war, or how would you compare it?

KM: Well, I think before the war it was a different environment. I mean, at that time, a lot of rowdiness was going on, which I don't think has occurred after the war as much. But we used to have street dances, carnivals and stuff like that, beside the parade, and then the Nisei Week coronation was a little different again. But I never did go to a coronation before the war, so I can't compare that to the ones that we had immediately after World War II.

MN: Now you mentioned rowdiness. Are you saying that there were a lot of fights?

KM: Yeah, there was... yeah, gang, there was gang from different areas like Hollywood, downtown, Exclusive 20s they had, some other clubs that, in Boyle Heights. So there was always rowdyism, too, because of the different kind of clubs that they had.

MN: Did you get into any of the fights?

KM: Yup. I don't know why, no reason. But just because I was with some friends that were, got involved with it, so that's why you get involved, too.

MN: So you're saying you weren't really in a club or a gang, but you were associating with them.

KM: Well, I had friends that were in these, not gangs, but clubs. So I was associated with them, so I got involved because of that. I guess we were rubbing elbows with the wrong guys.

MN: How bad were these fights? I mean, did people end up in the hospital?

KM: Oh, no, I don't think it -- most of it was all fistfights. So there's bloody noses. I think it... there was maybe one incident where somebody pulled a knife and that was a no-no. But most of the time it was all fistfights.

MN: Now at that time, was the Little Tokyo area the area of the Exclusive 20s?

KM: Well, there was, Exclusive 20 was, had a sort of lock on Little Tokyo. But if you went outside that area, I guess, you had the resistance of some of the clubs. So that's where the fights come in.

MN: Boyle Heights had the Cougars.

KM: Uh-huh. Boyle Heights had a lot of clubs out there. But the Exclusives was always notorious for being in fights.

MN: They always come up.

KM: Hmm?

MN: Their name always comes up.

KM: Yeah. But they all mellowed down later on. I know a lot of 'em.

MN: They even became respectable.

KM: Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Now, okay, let's see. You graduated from high school in the summer of '38, then you went to Glendale junior high and then you went to UC Berkeley. What year did you enter UC Berkeley?

KM: 1940.

MN: Did you enter Berkeley as a civil engineering major?

KM: Right.

MN: When you were there, where did you dorm?

KM: Huh?

MN: Where did you dorm?

KM: Oh, a place called, I think that was called Euclid Hall, but it was a predominately... oh, our first semester there, I was at the Blues dorm, that's right. And then I transferred over to the Euclid Hall next semester.

MN: Now what is Euclid Hall?

KM: Huh?

MN: What is Euclid Hall? Is it an all-male dorm?

KM: Yeah.

MN: Was it all Japanese Americans?

KM: All Japanese and all male dorm, yeah.

MN: And when you say Japanese, are you talking about students from Japan?

KM: No, all Niseis.

MN: And what kind of meals did you have there?

KM: Well, when the first semester there at the Buddhist dorm, we had teams of two or three guys that did, they did the cooking one night a week or whatever it is. And so they would be cooking their favorite dish or some dish that they knew how to cook. And then in Euclid Hall, they had a paid cook. So he used to cook a meal for six days a week, and then on Sunday we have, everybody had to make their own, you're allowed two eggs and something or other. And he had a big pot of rice, so that was your, either your breakfast or dinner. You had to cook your own.

MN: Going back to this Buddhist dorm, was this at the Berkeley Buddhist Church?

KM: Yeah.

MN: How big was the dorm there?

KM: I don't recall, but there was probably ten or twelve guys in that second story... Berkeley, what street was that? I forgot what the street was. Anyway, I think I was teamed up with about two other guys. So there must have been... not more than say fifteen buildings built, that stayed there.

MN: And then you moved into Euclid Hall. Can you share with us what happened to Euclid Hall after the war?

KM: Euclid Hall was... I think it probably was sold in the '50s or '60s. Because you couldn't get enough Japanese or Niseis or Sansei or Yonsei kids to build there. That was that time when everything was geared to integration. Everybody had to mix in with other nationalities or something was wrong. So the number of students that were applying for dormitories were excluding Euclid Hall, so they couldn't make the ends meet. So I think they sold it for about a hundred thousand dollars. Today probably worth five or ten million dollars. Because it's only about a block away from campus. And then it's got room for, oh, I think it was about forty students, the dorm there.

MN: Is the building still there?

KM: Building is still there. I think about five years ago I went up there and we had a, they chartered a bus so that we could see some of the old spots of the campus. And somebody asked the manager of the Euclid Hall, which is taken over by the YMCA or something like that, that if we could have some old residents before the war that wanted to take a look at it and see how the place looked like now. And I was surprised that the rooms were about the same, nothing had changed much. It's really wonderful.

MN: Now going back to your days at Berkeley, this is your first time away from home as an adult. Did you get into any trouble?

KM: No, no. I used to get very lonesome, very lonesome. I think this was the first time I was away from home. So I got homesick quite a bit. There was a couple of female students that I went up to, to Cal on the train, and they were very helpful. They were, I think they were one year ahead of me or whatever it was. But they acted more like a big sister.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: Now the war broke out while you were at Berkeley. What were you doing on Sunday, December 7th?

KM: [Laughs] Yeah, that was the day. It happened on Sunday, and then about nine o'clock in the morning, we were notified by the guys that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And at that time, I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was. And so, and then my finals started on December the 8th, and I don't know, I just didn't take of my finals that day, that time. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get myself to go back to school.

MN: So did you not go back to school after that?

KM: No, I didn't go to the classes after the war broke out. I was trying to get home. We went down to the train station to get tickets to go home on the train, and they wouldn't sell us any tickets unless they got, had a birth certificate saying that you were born in the U.S. I had to call my dad to go down to the county office to get birth certificate, copies of birth certificate. So those are the kind of things we went through just to get home.

MN: So your father went down there and then mailed the birth certificate to you?

KM: That's right, that's right.

MN: How long did that take?

KM: Oh, it must have took about a week.

MN: So once you got the birth certificate, were you able to buy a train ticket?

KM: That's right.

MN: And did you get harassed on the train at all?

KM: No.

MN: Now, you were mentioning that finals were supposed to start on December 8th. Your dorm mates at Euclid Hall, did they all not take their finals?

KM: That I don't know. I couldn't say. Some of 'em did and some of 'em didn't.

MN: Now when you finally reached Los Angeles, what was your neighborhood like?

KM: It was quiet, nothing that... people didn't come up to me and call me a "Jap" and then, "What are you doing here?" and all that. 'Cause my dad and mother, we lived in that house for twenty years. So the people that were, the old timers know we were there for a long time. It's the newer ones that... but they didn't harass us. I didn't get any harassment.

MN: Now, your father and your mother, did they lose any customers?

KM: I can't recall. Maybe they did, but I can't recall them losing any.

MN: Were there people that you knew who were picked up by the FBI?

KM: Yeah. We knew some people. I think my uncle was picked up, but my dad, he wasn't picked up. So that's why our family didn't have the repercussion of some of the other families.

MN: Now, you know, your home, you didn't finish Berkeley, what did you do? Did you have to go look for a job?

KM: You mean during that, after the war started?

MN: Just after the war started and before you went into camp.

KM: Well, a good family friend of ours who... he used to live, his family moved in with us for about a year before, but anyway, he had some routes, gardening routes in San Marino and some bigger houses. So had nobody to take care of it, so my dad told me to take care of that man's route after the war started.

MN: What happened to the man?

KM: No, no. That was a route, gardening route. So I took over his gardening route to do his gardening. So I don't know if I got paid or he got paid or what.

MN: Was this man unable to work?

KM: No, no, he was picked up by the FBI.

MN: Oh. Now when you started to work on this gardening route, did you get harassed?

KM: No. I just went around to do this guy's gardening.

MN: Now the Japanese Americans on Terminal Island were kicked off at the end of February 1942. Did any of them move into your neighborhood?

KM: No, none. Not that I know of, anyway.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: How and when did you hear that all Japanese Americans on the West Coast would have to go into camp?

KM: When did I find that out?

MN: When and how did you find that out?

KM: Oh, I don't know if it was word of mouth or what. Somebody must have told us, but we got ready. The people in Glendale, most of 'em went directly from Glendale to Manzanar.

MN: Did you go directly to Manzanar, no assembly center?

KM: No assembly center.

MN: Now how did you feel when you heard that all Japanese Americans, even American-born like yourself, would have to go into a camp?

KM: How did we feel? Shikata ga nai. It was ordered by the government, so be it. So we went.

MN: What did your family do with all the Japanese books and records and photographs?

KM: Well, when we moved, evacuated to Manzanar, my dad had a 1938 Dodge sedan. We jacked it up and put it in the garage, and then whatever we couldn't take with us, we threw it all in the garage and technically locked it up. Fortunately, when we came back, most of it was there, still there.

MN: What happened to your house during the war?

KM: We had it rented. We rented it to some German family, and he kept it up, I guess. So we were able to come back and my folks moved back in.

MN: How did you yourself prepare to pack?

KM: Huh?

MN: How did you prepare to pack to go into camp?

KM: I don't know. I just grabbed whatever I could carry, I guess.

MN: I mean, did you know if you were going into a hot place, a cold place, or what did they tell you to pack?

KM: Well, it was up to you, I think. They didn't tell us, I can't remember them telling us... it's both hot and cold.

MN: Did you know that you were going into a place called Manzanar?

KM: No, we didn't know where we were going.

MN: Do you remember the date or month that you gathered to go into camp?

KM: No, I don't remember exactly... I know it was in 1942, I think it was in March or April probably.

MN: Where did you gather?

KM: Where did we gather? Someplace in Glendale, I forgot. Somebody, I don't know who even took us there.

MN: Do you remember if any of your hakujin friends or teachers came out to see you off?

KM: Say goodbye? I don't recall.

MN: Do you recall any soldiers at the gathering point?

KM: I don't recall that either.

MN: Do you remember getting on a bus?

KM: No, not even getting on the bus. I know I went on a bus, and they we stopped for a pit stop or something like that in the desert, and everybody got out and I see someone who was on the other buses.

MN: How many buses were there?

KM: Huh?

MN: How many buses?

KM: I don't remember.

MN: Four, five?

KM: There must have been at least ten buses.

MN: From all the different areas?

KM: Yeah, because there were some people that were, that I knew from the... the Virgil area that were on another bus. I was surprised that they were on that bus. I thought it was all Glendale people, but there were people from other areas.

MN: Do you know where this pit stop was at? Was it possibly at Mojave?

KM: Probably someplace in the Mojave, yeah.

MN: On this bus, did you have to pull down the shades?

KM: I can't recall them doing that. I know I see, they talk about train rides and stuff like that where they're pulling the shades down, but I can't recall if the bus was...

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Do you know what time of the day you arrived at Manzanar? Was it dark, was it still light?

KM: I think it was still light. 'Cause it was only, from L.A. to Manzanar, you're only talking about a couple, three hour drive.

MN: Well, three hours if you're speeding, without a pit stop. It might have taken you at least four hours.

KM: Oh, yeah, but still, ample time for it to be still daylight. If you had to be there, I think probably people had to be there in the bus about eight o'clock or nine o'clock at the latest, so there was ample time for it to still be daylight there when they reached Manzanar.

MN: What was your first impression of Manzanar?

KM: [Laughs] I couldn't tell you my first impressions. I know all I could probably say is it's sure a desolate place.

MN: When you got there, how much of the camp was complete?

KM: Oh, we were in the, I was in Block 12, which is probably, I think it was only about probably half Manzanar wasn't built yet. 'Cause there's a block 1 to 6, and then 6 to 12, and then next one was 18. So, and then I think there's a midpoint of something. So I think there's about at least half of it that Manzanar wasn't built yet.

MN: Now, there were four in your family, is that right, that went in?

KM: Uh-huh.

MN: Did you have to share a barrack with another family?

KM: Uh-huh. We shared it with another, a widowed mother with three daughters. So they got half the place, and we had a curtain between us. And then my sister and I and my mom and dad were on the other side.

MN: What were some of the first things you did when you arrived at Manzanar?

KM: Well, first thing was, I think, they gave us a mattress, a straw mattress, so that we can have some, a bed to sleep on. But I think that one of the first things we did is try to plug up all the holes that was there that was bringing dust and the cold air, trying to insulate the place to keep us warm. I think we had coal burners for heating.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: When you got to Manzanar, what was your, one of the first jobs that you got there?

KM: First jobs? I think I was in the engineering department where... anyway, at that particular time we were building a aqueduct like to, for irrigation of the farm that they were gonna make in Manzanar. Because a lot of creeks in that high Sierras, produced a lot of water so that we can make an irrigation ditch coming from some of those creeks down to the farm. So since I was in civil engineering and knew something about making those kind of things, I was hired as one of the workers in the civil engineering department.

MN: So, now, did this job allow you to go outside camp?

KM: Oh, yeah. Well, because we had, the creeks were all outside of camp, so that's why we had, we had the truck that we used was the Caucasian supervisor in that department had a truck, so we would bring, tote myself and then about two or three other Niseis that were in the same department there with him.

MN: Did any of the army soldiers go with you?

KM: No army soldiers, no. We were by ourselves.

MN: Now while you were on this job examining the creeks, did you get an opportunity to do any fishing?

KM: No, we didn't do any fishing, but there were times when we were working that the trout were trying to hop over was only 'cause of the irrigation monitor things, they had to jump up quite a bit to get to the next level. Anyway, the fish would be in a pool by this ramp that we could scoop out the trout. We were, five, ten pounds trout, big ones. Yeah, real big ones.

MN: Did you eat them there?

KM: No, no. We took 'em, I brought 'em back to camp and gave 'em away. Most of the time we took 'em to the kitchen so they can make something out of it.

MN: How long did this job last?

KM: Oh, I think I was there maybe about, oh, maybe two, three months.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KM: Then they had an opportunity to do some sugar beet topping and get outside of camp. So I took advantage, there was five of us, six guys, we decided to form the team that signed up to go to somewhere to farm to chop up the sugar beets.

MN: Where did you go?

KM: So I went to a place called Rigby, Idaho.

MN: What month did you go out there?

KM: Oh, probably September or October. That was 1942.

MN: How did you get to Rigby, Idaho?

KM: Oh, we probably took a train and bus.

MN: Were you escorted by the military?

KM: No, no escorts.

MN: So once you got to the sugar beet farm, what did you have to do there?

KM: Well, we topped sugar beets. Very hard work, especially when you have six guys there, city-bred, and never looked at a farm. Anyway, we were starting on the sugar beets row, you start from one end and you look down in a straight line, and it's about a quarter of a mile down, and you had to top all the beets there, pulled up by the plow so that we can get 'em and chop the tops off. Then we had to go back and load 'em onto the truck. Hard work.

MN: How were the living conditions here?

KM: There? Oh, they had a, farmer had a shack that he converted so that we can sleep in there, then we had an outhouse that we had to do all our business in. And then there was a big creek that used to run by the house, I remember it was during the first part of the stay there, we could jump in the, take a bath in the creek. But near the end of the thing, November, early part of November, it got so cold, I didn't go in, too cold. Some of the fellows did, but they come out black and blue.

MN: So how did you keep yourself clean?

KM: Huh?

MN: How did you --

KM: Oh, well, later on, we used to take a sponge bath.

MN: Who cooked for you guys?

KM: We cook ourselves. And then we had to cook on, not a gas stove, it was a wood burner stove, but we managed.

MN: What did you use to eat?

KM: That I can't remember. We cooked something.

MN: How did you get your food supplies?

KM: The farmer took us to the market in town. We didn't have any transportation, so the farmer had to take us down.

MN: So how did the townspeople treat you?

KM: They didn't... there was no sign of discrimination and all that, we didn't feel it. Of course, we were just there temporarily anyway. So we were sort of accepted because we were saving some of the farmer's crops.

MN: What about laundry? How did you clean your clothes?

KM: Oh, we had to do our own laundry. So if we needed to, we had to do all hand laundering. You scrub it on a board or something to keep it clean.

MN: Did it rain while you were out there?

KM: I can't recall, but it must have rained. That time of year in Idaho, I'm pretty sure. But I can't recall any days off that we had that was a rainy, rainy day or something.

MN: Now other than this group of six Japanese Americans, were there other workers on the farm?

KM: No. At that time it was sugar beet harvesting time, so the only ones that would be there would be workers that were harvesting the farm, and there wasn't too many farmers that had their own helpers. So that's why they recruited the guys at camp.

MN: Now how were you paid?

KM: Oh, we got paid by... the pay was based on the tonnage or something like that, I remember. But our beets were so small that we got, per ton, we got a little more money, but because it was small, it took a lot of beets to make a ton. I remember some of the, some kids that went to Idaho some other place after we did, and they were talking about beets being, weighing between twenty pounds per beets compared to our maybe five or six pounds. So they made a little more money.

MN: Now what month did you finish topping the sugar beets?

KM: What month?

MN: Uh-huh.

KM: I can't recall, but I think it didn't go into December. It was probably November. Because if the ground freezes, then they can't plow that sugar beets off the ground.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: Now when you returned to Manzanar, was your sister still in camp?

KM: Hmm?

MN: Was your sister still in camp when you returned to Manzanar?

KM: Yes. We all returned to camp Manzanar.

MN: But was your sister still there?

KM: I can't recall. I'm pretty sure they were.

MN: Now what did your sister do at Manzanar?

KM: My sister? She wasn't there too long. I think she left and went to the University of Nebraska, so she got into the University of Nebraska in the summer semester, so she must have left either August... so she was onlyh in camp maybe about two, three months.

MN: When you returned to Manzanar, had the riots happened already?

KM: I can't recall what the dates were, no.

MN: Now I know a lot of people were Buddhists, but do you recall the first Christmas in Manzanar?

KM: No.

MN: How about the oshogatsu?

KM: I can't remember anything different.

MN: Now once you returned to Manzanar, what did you do?

KM: What?

MN: Once you returned to Manzanar --

KM: I can't recall what I did. I probably went back to the same job.

MN: Now -- go ahead.

KM: Go ahead.

MN: Now '43, the U.S. government came out with the controversial "loyalty questionnaire." When this came out, did you discuss this with your friends?

KM: Yeah, I guess we did, and then it was just a matter of which way you wanted to vote on that or answer that question about "no-no" or "yes-yes" and "no-yes." And so I think my attitude was that I guess since I'm born here and even though you were in camp, we wouldn't be comfortable in Japan. So I just forwarded "yes-yes."

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: So I guess since you were a "yes-yes," you were given a leave clearance to leave Manzanar. When did you leave Manzanar?

KM: I left in, I think March of 1943 to go to Chicago to go either work or go to school, back to school.

MN: Now once you got to Chicago, were you able to go to school immediately?

KM: No, I took a job, and my job was working with... what's that big publishing company that manufactured books, magazines? Anyway, I used to, they have a midnight shift, I think it was about seven something in the evening, until about four in the morning shift, unloading paper, rolls of paper onto a machine that made books and magazines or something. Donnelly's company, something like that?

MN: So this prevented you from going to school? Just your hours working, midnight shift?

KM: Uh-huh.

MN: So how long did you last there?

KM: Oh, probably a couple, three months.

MN: And then from there, what kind of work did you find?

KM: Well, and then I signed up for school, so I had to get a job that would allow me to go to night school and still work during the day. So I think I got a job as, at the Field Museum of Natural History as a mail clerk, like. I sorted out all the mail that came into the company.

MN: And then when you started to go to night school, what did you major in?

KM: Oh, I changed my major at that time to accounting or something that was more conducive to what I thought I'd be able to do.

MN: And what was your social life like in Chicago?

KM: Well, I went with a friend of mine that I met in, at Berkeley in 1940, and then I bumped into him in camp. And he was from Long Beach, and so we became very close in camp. And so he, we decided to go to Chicago at the same time.

MN: So you two hung out together?

KM: Yeah. In fact, he just passed away a few months ago, so we've been friends for about seventy-some-odd years.

MN: So you left Manzanar in 1943 and you are in Chicago going to school and working. What happened to you in 1944?

KM: Well, in 1944, I was working and I had changed jobs from the Field Museum to work as a... I don't know, a woman's dress manufacturer company that, buyer's, assistant to the buyer of various stuff that goes into women's dresses. And so I had that job for maybe about six, seven months while I was going to school. That's what I was doing most of the time. I don't recall any specific changes in my routine.

MN: And then what happened?

KM: Huh?

MN: And then what happened?

KM: Oh, then I went in the army.

MN: You got your draft notice?

KM: Yes. I got drafted, notice to report in December, and finally went to... induction center in February of '45.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: Where did you do your basic training?

KM: Oh, it's tough. I was in Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and I was assigned to do basic training with six guys in a hut, and one of the guys got measles. And after about six weeks in there, I ended up in the hospital getting measles myself. So when I got out of the hospital, I had to start my basic training all over again. So six weeks was a waste of time. [Laughs]

MN: Now when you first got to Camp Robinson in Arkansas, was this the first time you saw whites only and blacks only sections?

KM: Yes, that's right. That's why I went into the "blacks" toilet section and was told that, "You're in the wrong place." So that's how I found out that blacks only was for blacks only. The other side was for the others, non-blacks. That's the first time I really felt or knew about that real discrimination as such.

MN: What did you think about that when you saw that?

KM: I didn't think it was right, but that's the way things go, I guess.

MN: Now when you were going through basic training, were you in a segregated unit?

KM: No.

MN: Now I think you were talking about, you got an expert infantry...

KM: Badge? Oh, they, after your basic training, you go through a lot of maneuvers. And so there's a test that you go through to see how proficient you are as a soldier. And so I went through this routine, and I guess I got a perfect mark on it, so they gave me what they call an expert infantry badge or something like that, which entitled me to get five dollars a month more than the regular basic pay.

MN: Now you mentioned that you were in a unit that was integrated. How did the other non-Japanese American soldiers treat you?

KM: No, there was no, I didn't feel any kind of discrimination if that's what you're talking about. I felt as comfortable as anybody. Yeah, I didn't feel any discrimination.

MN: Now you're in Arkansas, Camp Robinson. Did you get a chance to visit either Rohwer or Jerome?

KM: Yeah. One time I think I went to a dance on a Saturday night at Rohwer, raining cats and dogs, so I didn't, we didn't stay too long because it was raining so hard that we didn't stay too long. So I didn't get to meet too many people there, and know what it was like to be back in the groove.

MN: Now you finished basic training and ended up at the Military Intelligence Service.


MN: How did you end up there? Did you take a test?

KM: No. I guess because of my Japanese school background and all that, when I, on my resume, they figured that I was better I was going to MIS than being sent to Fort Blanding in the infantry. I guess that's why I ended up there.

MN: Now was it on the train from Camp Robinson to Fort Snelling that VE Day was declared?

KM: VE... I think, no, I think I was on furlough when VE Day was declared, and also I think I was on the furlough on the train when VJ Day came. I remember both times I was on a train going someplace.

MN: What was MIS school like?

KM: What was it like? Oh, very, they were very meticulous about you learning the Japanese language, especially the new or the complicated Japanese or military sayings. 'Cause they were trying to teach us how to decipher military language, so very strict, and escalating Japanese real fast.

MN: Were you able to write to your mother and father in Japanese when you were in Japan?

KM: Oh, I remember, in fact, my mother has a bunch of letters that I wrote to her while I was stationed in Japan and then today I can... I know it's my writing, but I can't read it myself anymore. You got to use it just to maintain it.

MN: How many months were you in MIS school?

KM: Huh?

MN: How many months were you in MIS school?

KM: How many what?

MN: Months.

KM: Oh, went overseas. Let's see. March... I remember.... see, one month and... I'm trying to figure out what month I went to overseas, so I have to go backwards. Gee, I forgot.

MN: We'll come back to that. Now while you were at Fort Snelling, your parents left Manzanar. Where did they go?

KM: Oh, my parents went to Seabrook Farms in... where is it? Philadelphia?

MN: New Jersey.

KM: Anyway, I guess they had an opportunity to get out and earn some decent money, I guess. I don't know why they left camp, but I guess they couldn't, they wanted something to do. Oh, my sister was probably in school in New York, and then maybe that's why they thought, "Well, we'd be close to her to be there," so that's why they went.

MN: Were you able to visit them in Seabrook Farms?

KM: Oh, yeah. When I was in the army I took a trip from, I think, Snelling to Seabrook Farms, yeah.

MN: Now you were still in the MIS, Fort Snelling, when VJ Day was declared. How did you feel about when you heard the news?

KM: Let's see. Well, I was relieved that I wouldn't get shot at, anyway. I decided I wouldn't be in the front lines getting killed. That's about the only thing I can recall maybe thinking.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: Now is it correct to say that you shipped overseas on March 1946?

KM: Uh-huh.

MN: Where did you ship out from?

KM: I think it went out of Seattle.

MN: So if it went out of Seattle, I guess it didn't stop in Hawaii?

KM: No. Went directly.

MN: When you landed in Yokohama in 1946, what did that area look like?

KM: Well, it was all devastated, yeah, right. And then I would say from Yokohama, after I got out, I was billeted at the finance building, which is in Tokyo. Tokyo was all devastated, too, at that time.

MN: What were your main responsibilities?

KM: Oh, it was a menial job. We were supposed to be sort of a liaison between the people that's supposed to take care of the Radio Tokyo building, so we were more or less assigned to, at the job get done by them or... were telling 'em that this had to be done.

MN: Now when you were stationed in Japan, were you able to visit your relatives in Nagano?

KM: Yes. In fact, my mother, since I was stationed in Japan, she used to send me care packages that I could go to see my relatives, so the relatives, especially my mother's side, were always looking forward to my visits to give their care packages.

MN: How were they doing? How did they survive the war?

KM: How did they survive? They just survived, yeah. Because in Nagano, in a rural area and it's isolated, it's in the mountains there. It was no sense in them, U.S. or anybody bombing that place, there's nothing there, just the farms. So they wanted, the U.S. probably bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki because of the military applications that they had there.

MN: Now, do you know what sort of items your mother was sending to your relatives?

KM: Well, probably like soap and like sweets, probably like See's candies... not See's candies, Hershey Kisses. 'Cause they were wrapped in foil. Mostly I guess she was sending stuff that's edible.

MN: Now why didn't your mother just ship it directly to them?

KM: They couldn't. I mean, it's faster to just ship to the APO address, so it would get to me faster.

MN: Now I've heard stories where packages from the U.S. were opened and things were stolen. Did that happen to any of your packages?

KM: No. Most of the packages that came from my mother to me were probably not confiscated. Maybe the others that you're talking about were directly to the people in Japan.

MN: Now, among the U.S. Army soldiers, was it common to be selling in the black market?

KM: Very prevalent. Very prevalent.

MN: Did you or your friends dabble in that?

KM: Oh, I didn't dabble in it. In fact, my source of cigarettes and stuff like that was, it was, right in my building there's a few guys that were, I don't know if they were, they used to resell it, they must have. But some buyer would be there, so I didn't have to go out to some outskirts there toting the stuff there, black market.

MN: What happened to a U.S. soldier if they got caught?

KM: I don't know. Fact, the only ones that... I can't even recall any kind of a soldier being court martialed for that kind of thing.

MN: Now other than visiting your relatives at Nagano, were you able to visit other areas like Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

KM: Yeah. I just went through Hiroshima and so that was it. And I just see the devastation, and that's, you don't want to see it anymore. Once is enough.

MN: How did you feel about seeing that?

KM: Oh, it makes you sick. Yeah, that's right.

MN: Were you able to travel anywhere else for fun?

KM: Huh?

MN: Were you able to travel anywhere else for fun?

KM: No, I didn't do any... I mean, I didn't want to travel just to see. I used to travel to, like, Hakone or something to go to the onsen spas. But the devastated areas was, I didn't care to go and look at it.

MN: How were you able to afford going to an onsen in Hakone?

KM: Oh, all you needed was any kind of ration or cigarettes or something like that, they were more valuable to the recipients than the yen that they had.

MN: You kind of bartered?

KM: Yeah, bartered.

MN: Now you were supposed to come home in October 1946 but you didn't. What happened?

KM: Oh, what happened was that I, one of my friends asked me to take a package of stuff home to his wife, and anyway, I got stopped at the, at Zama which was the port of embarkation at, was supposed to get on a plane to go, get back to U.S. Anyway, the CID came and asked me if I knew this guy, and I said, "Yeah." Well, they knew that I had a, I received a package for him, to take home for him. So I had to take the thing and they opened up all the containers, and it was nothing but jewelry, diamonds, pearls, you name it. Anyway, so I had to stick around before I could go home, because the trial of this guy was, involved. In Japan, I guess, the favorite thing is the orei, so he was working as the liaison between the U.S. Army and the Japanese government. And anyway, Mitsubishi company or whatever was giving him orei every time a big project came, and so anyway, later on he used to demand a percentage of it. So anyway, he accumulated quite a bit of money, so he was using that money to buy various items to send home. Anyway, I got caught with it. So I had to stick around, so anyway, he ended up eight years in Leavenworth. But I haven't seen him since.

MN: So how long were you delayed because of this mess?

KM: I was delayed from October to January. And then on the way home in the ship I went up to sickbay because I was urinating black, and anyway, the doctor looked at me and said, "I know you're Japanese and you're supposed be yellow, but you're not supposed to be that yellow." So anyway, I had hepatitis B or something like that, which is like yellow jaundice. But I ended up in the hospital, and then at that time, people were getting hepatitis or that, anyway, from inoculations of the influenza shots from the previous person that got a shot, I guess the syringe or something gets a little blood up in you and gives it to the next guy. So anyway, there was a whole ward of yellow jaundice or hepatitis people in Washington where I was at Madigan General Hospital.

MN: How long were you at Madigan?

KM: Madigan? So I was there from January or February of '47 'til the discharge in September of '47. So six months.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: Now by the time you're discharged in '47, September, were your parents back in Glendale?

KM: Yeah. They came back about... as soon as they could, so by then they probably went back there by about '46 maybe.

MN: Did they share with you any troubles they had about moving back into the house and reestablishing their lives?

KM: Uh-uh. They didn't share any knowledge of that. They never talked about it.

MN: Was your father back to gardening?

KM: Yeah, my dad went back to gardening.

MN: What about your mother?

KM: Well, instead of doing laundry, she started doing housework.

MN: And then once you returned to Glendale, did you have to help your father with a gardening route?

KM: Yeah. In fact, after I got out of the army, I used to help a lot. In fact, he was getting much older, so he couldn't do some of the heavy stuff, so I used to help him. So I enrolled at SC when I went back to school. I usually left my, I took my classes in the late afternoon or evening so I could help him out during the day.

MN: And when you enrolled at SC, what were you majoring in?

KM: Accounting.

MN: Now I understand it was really competitive at this time with all the soldiers coming back and going on the GI Bill. Were you able to stay, keep up academically?

KM: Huh?

MN: Were you able to keep up academically? Wasn't it pretty competitive?

KM: You're much older and much, you know what you wanted to do, so as far as the study is concerned and something like that, I don't know. I was maintaining pretty good grades at SC.

MN: So you're going to school, you're helping your father with his gardening, what did you do on your free time if you had any?

KM: [Laughs] Not too much, not too much.

MN: Did you get a chance to go into Little Tokyo?

KM: Oh, yeah.

MN: Were there still a lot of African Americans in Little Tokyo?

KM: Oh, back in the... yeah, I'd say the early, late '40s and early '50s, yeah. It was about, I guess... in the early '50s there was a pretty good turnaround. It was mostly Japanese in Little Tokyo. Early '50s or late '49. I think the first Nisei Week was in '49 after the war.

MN: Now in the early years when you returned, did you go to any of these African American nightclubs?

KM: No, no, I didn't.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: Now at USC, when did you graduate?

KM: January 1950.

MN: So that means you only went to USC three years. How were you able to graduate in three years?

KM: Well, I had a couple years in junior college, and so as far as the basics concerned, I had all the basics. And then I was there at Berkeley a year, and so I had all the basics, all I needed was my majors. So I enrolled in... enrolled in... anyway, I finished in a couple of years anyway. Just because I just took nothing by my majors.

MN: Now once you graduated, did you apply to, like, the big four accounting firms?

KM: Uh-huh.

MN: And what happened?

KM: They, all of them said they "couldn't hire Japs," that's right.

MN: So where did you find employment?

KM: Well, I started working for the state. So I was working for the state for a couple years.

MN: And were you still helping on your father's gardening route?

KM: Oh, probably, probably.

MN: Now you didn't stay with the state job very long. Why not?

KM: Well, for one thing, I didn't like the attitude of most of the employees of state jobs. All they talk about is their... they know the day they're gonna retire. I mean, when you talk about forty years down the line, and then about the number of hours and days and weeks 'til the retirement, then something is wrong. They don't have any interest in the job or what.

MN: Now around this time you got married. Can you share with us how you met your wife?

KM: Oh, I got married in 1952, February I guess it was. Anyway, I met my wife, I had a couple dates with her sister, but she was, I think either an inch taller or the same height as me, so she looked always taller than me. [Laughs] So I got introduced to her sister, so she was more my size so I started dating her.

MN: What was your wife's name?

KM: Fumiko.

MN: Her maiden name?

KM: Huh?

MN: Her maiden last name?

KM: Ryozaki, R-Y-O-Z-A-K-I, Ryozaki.

MN: And why didn't you and your wife get married in a Japanese American church?

KM: Well, yes, at that time, they were using this church I got married, quite a few Niseis were getting married there. It was a nice church, it was big, and then we thought we'd have the reception after the, not chop suey but cake and cookie or whatever, little snack type of reception because we were paying for the whole thing and I didn't want to get myself all in [inaudible] over money.

MN: Which church did you end up marrying in?

KM: Hmm?

MN: Which church did you end up marrying in?

KM: Oh, I forgot the name. It was on Sixth Street and on Wilshire there. Sixth and Wilshire. It was not on Wilshire, it was on Sixth Street, but it's a big church, nice church.

MN: What did you wear to your wedding?

KM: Huh?

MN: What did you wear to your wedding?

KM: Oh, I wore a tuxedo, rented a tuxedo.

MN: Do you remember what your wife wore?

KM: Well, she got a... what do you call it? A wedding dress, yeah. Still got it. I think her sister, kid sister used it once.

MN: Were you able to afford a honeymoon?

KM: Honeymoon was, with my car, we went to, we were gonna go to the Grand Canyon, and all we saw was a hole in the ground and came back. It was February, so when we got to the Grand Canyon, it looked like it was gonna snow, so I didn't have any chains, so I thought, well, I'd better get the heck out of there. So all we saw was a hole in the ground there and came, started coming back.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: Now you're married now, you left your job with the state, so what did you do after that? When you came back and married, you're back from your honeymoon, you're not with the state.

KM: Well, I started... during the time that we were in school, Bruce Kaji and I were talking about forming an accounting firm. About that time, a lot of Niseis were starting their own business, and so there was a need for some accountants. So there was a few already existed, but we felt, well, it'd be a good time to start our own. So that's why Bruce and I got together and started an accounting firm in Little Tokyo.

MN: What did you call it?

KM: Kaji and Maruyama. [Laughs]

MN: Where did you have your offices?

KM: We had it in the second story of the Toyo Miyatake Building. We used to be, the studio is on the ground floor and then they had about one, two, three offices on the second floor. There was an insurance man. In fact, Ed Hirota used to have an insurance office next door, and then there was a doctor... Iwata... what was his name? I forgot his name, first name. I know it wasn't Frank Iwata. Anyway, Iwata was the doctor. So there was three offices there.

MN: Now when you and Bruce teamed up and had your business, you folks also became involved in this uranium mining. Can you tell us that story?

KM: Oh, gee. I don't know how we met this guy, but he used to be... I guess from other things that we did for him, but he had a, he was sort of a prospector and a man that... and then I guess the uranium thing started to come out about that particular time, supposed to be a hot item. And anyway, we put some money into buying rights for mining uranium for this particular place in Arizona or wherever it was, Nevada. And so anyway, it went kaput. [Laughs]

MN: Did you make any money out of it?

KM: Huh?

MN: Did you make any money out of it?

KM: No, no, didn't make a dime.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: Now after you returned to Los Angeles, you became involved with this burial program of the Nisei Veterans. Can you share with us what this program was?

KM: Well, the Nisei Veterans Association was instrumental in, at that particular time, they were bringing back the soldiers, Nisei 442 soldiers that were killed in action in Italy and France and weren't buried in the country. And so the Nisei Veterans were instrumental in the construction of the Sadao Munemori monument and also in the burial program of these deceased soldiers from the late '40s.

MN: And then this Sadao Munemori statue is in Evergreen Cemetery.

KM: Uh-huh.

MN: Did the Nisei Veterans Association become the Go For Broke organization?

KM: No. No, in fact, that Nisei... I don't know what happened to the Nisei Veterans, but I had, I was treasurer for, I don't know, the last ten or twenty years of the existence of the Nisei Veterans. But we had a few dollars and we used to make money on, we used to sponsor the New Year's party at the Royal... something. Oh, Royal Palms Hotel on the west side there near, between Sixth and Seventh or something like that, over there by... what do you call it? MacArthur Park? That area. And anyway, I had some money leftover, so I just wanted to clear it out before I died, and the darn money would end up in somebody's other pocket, so I had to close it out and I gave the money to the Coordinating Council, Veterans Coordinating Council. But, yeah, that Nisei Veterans Association went kaput. Too bad, 'cause they did a lot in that burial program.

MN: How many soldiers do you think the group buried?

KM: Oh, gee, I don't know how many were buried at Evergreen.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MN: I wanted to ask you also about the Japanese American Optimist Club because you're a charter member. Can you share with us how that started?

KM: Okay. There was two guys, Bunji Hamanaka... anyway, there's two guys in the Highland Park Optimist Club that thought there was a need in J-town for some organization to take over some of their activities. So at that time, I think the Optimist Club and every other, Kiwanis, and they were looking for new clubs and new members. So it was the right time for, I guess, all those organizations to try to create new clubs. So, but anyway, these two guys came down to J-town and got some, few of the J-town people interested in it, and then it ballooned out to about, they recruited about a hundred potential members, and so we formed the Japanese American Optimist Club.

MN: What year did you form?

KM: What year? 1954.


MN: Can you tell me what the mission of the Optimist Club is?

KM: Well the mission is, our motto at that time is "Friend of Boys." But since, oh, a few years back we had to change the name to "Friend of Youth," because it excluded women, girls. But now it's called... but at that time, it was strictly, we did mostly our boy's work with fellows. And then I think when we changed from, when the CYC was formed, because the Optimists couldn't handle it, it was getting too big, the clubs decided to start a program for the girls. So we're still running that girls club.

MN: So when you say CYC, you're talking about the Community Youth Council.

KM: Right.

MN: So the Optimist Club, what sort of sports programs did you sponsor?

KM: Oh, we were on our own, we used to have baseball, basketball, we used to have swim meets. I remember when I was president we had that cross country run in Griffith Park. And I think we were, we had a marathon one time. In fact, before the L.A. even thought about having a marathon, we had one. So we had various programs that didn't continue, but maybe one or two years and then it was abandoned. Too much work, or it cost too much money.

MN: It does sound like you had a big sports program.

KM: Yeah, very big. And then we had like a baseball, we used to have the top team play the top team of the northern California. 'Cause at the same time that the Japanese American Optimist Club was formed, they had a Japanese club formed in San Francisco called Japanese American Optimist Club of San Francisco. But the name of Japanese American was not, or ethnic group type of organizations were sort of not very kosher with the Optimists International. But our club decided that we're unique, and if they didn't want to have the Japanese American Optimists be called that, well, they could shove it or we could go, go in another club. But they, since we were a very strong club, it was more or less okay or not okay, but allowed us to keep our Japanese American Optimist Club of Los Angeles name. But San Francisco changed their name to Golden Gate Optimists. And so they sort of relinquished their rights to that, I guess.

MN: Now in addition to putting on a lot of programs for the boys, you were, the club was also very active with the Nisei Week.

KM: Yeah. In fact, we used to run the Nisei Week coronation ball, and the parade, and the carnival at one time. But...

MN: It's a lot of work.

KM: Lot of work.

MN: Other than that, the Japanese American Optimist Club, were there other activities that you liked to share with us?

KM: Well, I mean, they had their regular, the international had their regular programs, oratorical contest, essay contest and stuff like that. Golf, we had junior golf, stuff like that. So we participated in those, but we didn't get to, we didn't have the publicity or make the publicity on that kind of subject 'cause it was all geared to the international.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

MN: Now let me ask you about your involvement with the Japanese American Credit Union. How did you get involved and get onto the board?

KM: Oh. At that time, I was living on the west side in De Merit Park, and I was a good friend of George Saiki who used to be the liaison man for [inaudible], L.A. City Mayor. Anyway, he was the manager of the credit union, and I guess that was so heavy on non-professional guys on the board of the credit union that he wanted to put some guys that were in some sort of business or some sort of professional capacity into the board instead of just being all, say, gardeners. And so he asked me to be, become a member of the credit union board, so that's when I got started.

MN: Can you share with us, you mentioned there was a lot of gardeners. Share with us why there were so many gardeners and how the credit union started.

KM: The credit union started, they used to, the Japanese used to have organizations -- not organizations, but people would get together and have what they call a tanomoshi club. And the tanomoshi club was usually people that would put so much money in every month, like a loan or savings account. People would bid on, to borrow that money that these people would, that would put in the tanomoshi every month. So I guess it started getting so big that the credit union movement came into being.

MN: So why did they have to have a tanomoshi? Why didn't they just go to a bank?

KM: Oh, still had discrimination for the banks and insurance companies, still discriminatory of who the customers were, so the Japanese were excluded from that, so that's why they had to do their own thing. That's right.

MN: So now the... you started out with the Los Angeles Southwest Japanese American Credit Union, which has expanded and consolidated. As someone who's been on the board, what are some of the things that you're most proud of?

KM: Oh boy... one thing is that it grew from a humble beginning, and now we have assets of about, over eighty million dollars, and that's a lot of money to be tied up. So my thing is that that's a heck of a big accomplishment for any kind of an organization, to go from a small nothing network to an eighty-plus million dollar credit union. But accounts, other than we have... well, it's the wrong time to ask me that question because the credit union and banks are having such a rough time now that everything you think about, I hope it survives.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

MN: Let me ask you now about your involvement with the Keiro senior housing program. You were involved from the very beginning. How did talks of creating housing for Japanese American senior citizens begin?

KM: That was the dream of... our CEO at that time was Ed Hiroto. He had dreams of... because of the doctors were more or less, City View Hospital was, we closed it up because of that, it was not sufficient in having the kind of equipment and stuff that the bigger hospitals had, and so the diagnosis of patients would be not very good. So most of the doctors trying up with other bigger hospitals, so we couldn't see any future in the City View Hospital. So anyway, during that time, there was a need for Issei parents that were in a situation where they're widowed or widowers and living by themselves and with nobody to take care of. So the idea of a nursing home was pushed by Ed Hiroto. And so I think it was, at that particular time it was a good idea, and still is, I guess.

MN: Now, let's see. Ed Hiroto was the CEO with the Japanese Hospital. And then that, all the management was taken over to the City View Hospital, is that right?

KM: What was that now?

MN: The Japanese hospital... the City View, let's see. The Japanese Hospital, he was the CEO, and then you folks bought the City View Hospital?

KM: That's another hospital, right, and moved the Japanese hospital over to City View.

MN: And you were thinking about expanding?

KM: Right.

MN: But that idea never...

KM: Well, we bought the piece of property on Third and San Pedro where that shopping center is today, that little market, and they had a bowling alley there, too. Anyway, a group, Al Taira and a group bought that, and so our dream of a Japanese big hospital was sort of killed at that time.

MN: So, now, rather than expand the Japanese hospital, how did you come up with the idea of going into elderly care?

KM: That's why our idea was that one of the, since one of the dreams of Ed Hiroto was that we have something that would take care of the aging Issei parents. So that's why when we abandoned the idea of making a first-class Japanese hospital, our efforts were transferred over to creating a nursing and retirement home for the aging.

MN: Who came up with the name Keiro?

KM: Well, Keiro... I forgot what the... anyway, George Aratani, being a bilingual, very strong in Japanese, he came up with the idea of the name because of the reference to the elderly and the care or something like that, in that Keiro.

MN: Now I imagine you folks had to do a lot of fundraising. How did you go about making the funds?

KM: Well, the initial money was pushed through more the community, our community. But in... I forget what year that was when they had a big earthquake, so a lot of the buildings in the retirement home section were, what do you call it, not demolished but unoccupiable. So that we had to sort of demolish the old residence and build a new one. And at that time, the tag price was about six million dollars, and so we had George and Fred Wada who was the board, go to Japan to try to raise three million dollars in Japan. And at that time, we had a special permit, and the Japanese government allowed... because donations to a foreign country charitable was not deductible by the Japanese corporations. So we had an amendment to the law that, for the one-time donations to Keiro would be tax deductible. So we raised a little over three million dollars in Japan. So then we got the other three million from the local community. So it was enough to build a new facility which is now standing now, retirement home on Boyle Avenue.

MN: Tell us about how you got the building at Lincoln Heights.

KM: Huh? MN: The Lincoln Heights building.

KM: Oh, you mean Keiro nursing home? Originally there was an eighty-bed, we had to build an eighty-bed hospital, or nursing home there. And below, on Lincoln Park Avenue there, we had a, what they call Minami Keiro, which had, I forget how many beds, forty or fifty beds. And anyway, that had to be refurbished or demolished, so we had it demolished and decided to raise money for a three hundred-bed nursing home and expanding that eighty-bed nursing home. So we got a... in fact, we still owe them money. We probably owe four or five million dollars yet on a ten million dollar state funded or backed what do you call it? Bond, which is a low percentage yield, so it's tax-free bond that people buy. Anyway, we raised ten million dollars on that to build the Keiro nursing home expansion program.

MN: Now when you started with all the Keiro program, did you ever envision that it would become this big?

KM: No, not this big.

MN: Are you happy with the direction that it's going?

KM: Oh, yes, I'm very happy.

MN: During any of the fundraising time, did you have to mortgage your own house?

KM: Yeah. In fact, to guarantee the loans, yes. We had to mortgage or put up as collateral and guarantee the loan from the bank, right.

MN: So if the community and fundraising hadn't come through, what would have happened to your house?

KM: We'd probably got... we'd probably lose it, that's right.

MN: Did your wife know that you put that up for collateral?

KM: No.

MN: You never told her?

KM: Just told her, that's it. But we had confidence in it. We had confidence. Otherwise we wouldn't have really did it, I think.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

MN: Let me just briefly ask you about redress right now. You know, when talks of redress started in the '70s and '80s, did you think it was possible?

KM: No.

MN: How did you feel when the redress bill was passed?

KM: Well, I didn't think too much. I mean, it didn't make any difference if we got it or didn't get it. It was just the idea that they finally, admission. That's the main thing that I was worried about. The money is, like my wife died about ten days before the bill was passed, so it doesn't make any difference anyway, but the main thing I wanted was the admission and they were guilty of it. That's the main thing. The money, I don't know what happened to it, just blew it. [Laughs]

MN: Is there anything else you want to share with us that I haven't asked you? I've asked all my questions.

KM: Nope. You asked a lot of questions that I didn't even think about. I wouldn't, spontaneously, if you don't ask the questions, well, I wouldn't know what the answer's going to be, so you got to ask, otherwise it won't click. [Laughs] Thank you.

MN: Well, thank you, Kiyo. I appreciate your time.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.