Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Takenori Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Takenori Yamamoto
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: January 11, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-ytakenori-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is Wednesday, January 11, 2012. We will be interviewing Takenori Yamamoto. We are the Centenary United Methodist Church, Tani Ikeda is on the video camera, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. And Tak, I want to start with your father's name. What was your father's name?

TY: Tokuichi.

MN: How about your mother's name?

TY: Kotoyo.

MN: What was her maiden name?

TY: Omori.


MN: I want to ask... let's ask, which prefecture did your parents come from?

TY: Ehime.

MN: It's not very common for people to immigrate from Ehime-ken. Do you know why they left?

TY: Well, you know, they were the last children in their family, and they would not have been left anything. And so their idea was to come here and see if they could make a fortune living and working here.

MN: So then like most of the Issei families, I'm going to assume your father came to the United States first?

TY: Yes.

MN: Where did he first land?

TY: In Seattle.

MN: Do you know what he did out there?

TY: I think he worked in a hotel.

MN: And then I guess he kind of worked his way down to the Los Angeles area?

TY: Yeah. But my mother met him there after she came from Japan as well, so they migrated to San Francisco and then Los Angeles and then to Orange County.

MN: So when your father was, when he got married and your family, your mother and your father lived in Orange County, what kind of job did your father have at that time?

TY: My father had been a carpenter for some time, so he couldn't find work there. So he would take a week of work someplace else and then stay there. And Mom raised the kids.

MN: So your father's customers, were they mainly Japanese Americans or hakujins, or who were your father's customers?

TY: I think initially they were, 'cause he didn't speak English well. But a lot of hakujin types in Orange County hired him.

MN: So you said he would be away for a while?

TY: Yes, he would be gone the full week and come home on the weekend. So it was probably easier for him that way, he didn't have to contest or work with the kids. [Laughs]

MN: So your mother mainly just raised the kids on her own?

TY: Oh, yes. Yes, she did.

MN: So when your father was away, did you miss your father a lot?

TY: I just assumed that's the way it was. I never really thought to analyze why my father wasn't there, he just wasn't.

MN: So let me ask a little bit about you now. What year were you born?

TY: 1938.

MN: And then where were you born?

TY: In Los Angeles. I was born outside of the Japanese hospital and near Hellman Park, and transported back to Orange County after I was born.

MN: Does that mean you were born and delivered by a sambasan?

TY: Uh-huh.

MN: What is your birth name?

TY: Takenori Yamamoto.

MN: Now most Niseis of your generation, they have a, like an English name later on. Did you ever pick up an English name?

TY: No. People called me Tak, but that's short for Takenori.

MN: Now you're the fifth of eight children, is that right?

TY: That's correct.

MN: I'm going to run down the names of your siblings and where they were born, and tell me if I'm correct.

TY: Okay.

MN: Kikuko; born in Seattle; Fumio, born in Seattle; Yasuko, born in L.A.; Shoji, born in L.A.; you, born in L.A.; Yoshi, born in L.A.; Nori, born in Poston; and Kimio, born in Poston.

TY: That's correct.

MN: Now were all the children delivered by a sambasan?

TY: Well, let's see. Up to Yoshi, yes. Then, of course, when we went to camp, they went to the hospital.

MN: Now I know you were born during the Great Depression, but did you ever hear of your parents talk about how tough those years were?

TY: I think if you live through it, they wouldn't have to tell you. You saw that you didn't have much of anything. Maybe because we were already poor, how did I know that we were lacking anything? But like food-wise and everything, we didn't lack for that, because my mom chopped the chickens up, so that kind of thing was not a problem. She raised the vegetables, so we had all of those things. There was an ample supply.

MN: So your family didn't have to go to, like, dumpster diving or anything like that.

TY: No, we didn't have to. I don't think there was a dumpster anywhere or we wouldn't go. [Laughs] We were right next to farms.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.