Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Nori Masuda Interview
Narrator: Nori Masuda
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 10, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mnori-01

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: Today is March 10, 2010, and we are in Fresno interviewing Nori Masuda. And I'm Jill Shiraki, this is Tom Ikeda.

NM: Tom.

JS: And behind the camera --

NM: What was your last name?

TI: It's Ikeda.

NM: Ikeda? Oh. Tom Ikeda.

JS: Tom Ikeda, and behind the camera is Dana Hoshide.

NM: I can't hear good.

JS: Okay, I'll speak louder. So can you say your name and when and where you were born?

NM: My name? My name is Nori Masuda, I was born in Fresno, 1916, September 11th.

JS: Okay. Can you tell us about your parents, your father's name --

NM: My parents?

JS: Uh-huh.

NM: Oh. Well, they had a store. We had a bookstore at first, then we had all kinds of candy, fruits and all that. This was in China Alley. This is the picture, China Alley is about -- my dad took over about 1911 or '12, the store. See, my dad's older brother had the store, and he's going back to Japan. And then, so he sold it to my dad. And that's about 1911 or '12, around there.

JS: So when did your father come to the United States? When did your father first come to the United States?

NM: My dad came, I think, around 1888, if I'm not mistaken.

JS: Do you know what he did before he had the bookstore?

NM: Well, he said he worked in, all over. He was in... let's see. He was in Ventura around there, but I think they were taking oranges or lemon or something like that. They came to a farm, working in there. Then they just traveled, ended up in Fresno, I think.

JS: And when did your father and mother, when did your mother come to the United States?

NM: Oh, my mother, I think my dad went back about 1908 or '09. And then I think they got married, and then they came together. It's about 1909 or around there. I don't know for sure about that time.

JS: Can you describe the store? Describe the bookstore, what it was like, where...

NM: Bookstore, we had, and then we also had Japanese omochi. You know, during New Year's time, they had mochitsuki in the back of this, our store. There was a little shack in the back, and my mother and dad used to pound the mochi rice, and then they make mochi. Then for New Year's, we had... what do you call that now? Omochi. God, I'm forgetting...

JS: Ozouni?

NM: Mochi, yeah.

JS: Uh-huh, mochi?

NM: And then right here, we had this counter, we had ice shave, and summertime they had tokoroten like that. Lot of Japanese was coming in from around Reedley and Clovis and all that. So they used to come into town. So every day was kind of busy, yeah. And then they had tokoroten, and then, of course, we had candies and everything. We were selling just about everything, books. And then Japanese comb, you know, toothbrushes, they were all imported from Japan. And then that's why this counter has all Japanese goods. Then out here, later on, they had tokoroten, summertime they had tokoroten, they cook it, and they had, served tokoroten right there.

TI: How about things like Japanese newspapers?

NM: Japanese newspaper?

TI: Yeah, things like news from Japan. Did you have anything like that, or magazines?

JS: Those times, I don't remember those things. 'Cause I was in China Alley only when I was, until about nine, eight, nine years old, then we moved out. And then... but they had Japanese paper, yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JS: Can you tell us about China Alley? Describe what --

NM: Chinatown?

JS: China Alley.

NM: The main Chinatown was from Kern Street to Tulare Street. That alley was full of people, and mostly Oriental, there was Chinese, Japanese, and a few Filipino came in around there, too. But it was mostly Japanese. They work out in the country, their free time, they used to come into the gambling place. There was, in the alley, there was one, two, three, four, five, six, about six gambling place, yeah. And the Chinese, it's just like a club. You just go in there and... of course, we never went in there. But then they used to live right in the cellar. A lot of Chinese had a cellar, and they had a bed there, they used to sleep there. Then on the second floor, that building was, the store was on a two-story building, upstairs was, Chinese was living there. Then that Chinese, that alley was gambling place here, another one, gambling, Chinese dry goods store, Chinese food-like, you know, they got ducks and everything hanging, they cooked that, those things was there. And the gambling, gambling, then Japanese had a noodle shop, and a candy store on the other side. Ours was on this side. [Laughs] So there was a lot of Japanese restaurant, too. Our store was right there, this one. Right next door was a pool hall at one time. And then there was a Japanese restaurant, and then there was a carpenter right next door. Next door was another Japanese restaurant, and right across, there was a noodle shop, and then another noodle shop there. Then there was a barber shop, then Ego's Japanese restaurant, and Chinese gambling. So there was about four or five gambling places right in there. So that was the main section of business. Other alleys, empty, yeah.

JS: So did your parents tell you to stay away from the gambling house?

NM: Who? Police?

JS: Your parents. Did they say... you know, you're a young boy. What did they --

NM: No. We had another house we rented, and we used to go home there, all back and forth, yeah. I could remember, there was only about three or four. My sisters is there, my brother, and my oldest brother was brought back by my uncle. He didn't have a son, so he said he's gonna take my brother when he was one year old, he took him back. We weren't born yet, but he was back. So he thought he was born there already, all the time.

JS: He was in Japan.

NM: Yeah. Ojichan never told him that he was the father. 'Cause we didn't know I had a brother until we were high school age. So I remember a lot of Chinese holidays, it has firecracker. You know, upstairs was Chinese club and all that. We had a lot of club there, too.

TI: And so Nori, like gambling in Fresno, was that legal? Did the police --

NM: No, I don't think it was legal, but the police was there. So I think they let it go. Because all the Japanese coming there, they go in there, they're broke. [Laughs]

TI: Earlier, someone told us that recently, they found tunnels.

NM: They had a lot of escape route, but I never saw it.

TI: Did you know about that when you were a kid?

NM: Well, we knew about it, but they'll never let us down. So we used to go downstairs and look at it, and they'll go chase us off. So we used to get chased out all the time.

TI: So do you know any stories, or did you hear any stories about the escape routes and...

NM: Escape routes?

TI: Yeah, any stories?

NM: There was rumors of they got connection all the way through to the next block. Then from there, there's some more tunnels and all that. You know, when they kind of closed down all that, they have so much... I don't think they had as much as they said they had, escape routes. One that way, one this way, 'cause I never saw it. But they did have an escape route.

TI: And who would use the escape routes?

NM: Huh?

TI: Who would use it? Who would need to escape?

NM: Well, the gambling people had the escape route. So I never saw it, though. But they did have it. I wish I saw it again, but I wasn't around, you know. I was in Japan for a while when they started working on those things.

TI: In the gambling places, did lots of Japanese workers gamble also?


NM: (Narr. note: Yes, I saw many Japanese workers go into the gambling places. I'm sure there were more losers than winners. The Japanese workers will start coming and start working from June in the Fresno Valley and leave about September. They will go north to Lodi, Stockton and Sacramento for the rest of the year.)

JS: In Sacramento?

NM: Something like that, rice and all that, too.

JS: Oh, right.

NM: Yeah.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: So can you tell me about Ego?

NM: Ego's restaurant?

JS: It was a restaurant?

NM: Oh, it was a pure Japanese restaurant, and they had Japanese food. They used the main floor. They had no lodging there. I never ate there, so I don't know. [Laughs] There was a lot of restaurant like that, too, Japanese. Right next door there was a Japanese restaurant, across, and then there were some Chinese bao and then all that, Chinese were, they're all good.

JS: So would you eat the Chinese food?

NM: They had Chinese bao, yeah.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JS: So tell me about your mother.


NM: [Referring to photograph] (Narr. note: This picture was taken in the pool hall in the basement in 1920. They closed the pool hall a couple of hours and used the place to teach sewing with the sewing machine. The four ladies in the photo sitting left to right are: Mrs. Tochiura, Ms. Inouye, Mrs. Masuda and Mrs. Hamasumi. Standing is Mrs. S. Ito, the teacher.)

TI: So like a sensei, like a teacher, sensei?

NM: You got that from me?

JS: Yes.

NM: [Laughs] I thought it was the same one. It's all in one piece.

JS: Right.

NM: Oh, that's nice.

JS: So your mother learned to sew.

NM: And then, yeah, they had to learn how to sew. So that's how they... my mother made all my shorts, shirts, and all that, yeah.

JS: Did she sell any of the clothes?

NM: Huh?

JS: Did she make clothes to sell at the store? Did she sell any clothes? No?

NM: No.

JS: Well, she made the clothes for the children.

NM: No, we have a store, and we had an apartment, two-bedroom apartment. We were, four of us, there was a two-bedroom, and then a small kitchen, and we just ate breakfast there. Then we'd go to the store, and that was our main place, the store. Then when we came home, we come home together and then we go to sleep. Then there was about four of us, two boys and the two sister, then the main one was in Japan already, but I didn't know about that. So I found out way late. But then after that, my, had another baby girl, but she died pretty young. And then altogether we had nine kids.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: So where was the apartment? Where did you live?

NM: Apartment was on Tulare Street, go to the alley, it's an apartment. It's a two-bedroom apartment, then the kitchen is just a three-gas heating burner, three of 'em, that's how we got the main breakfast in the morning. My mom used to make -- I don't know how she got it, but she made waffles, hotcakes and all that. Of course, they find out from the neighbors, they have exchanged all the recipe like that. Then when we had the waffle like that, boy, that was something. And then we used to have hotcakes, too, in the morning. Then my mother used to come in the store and stay there all day until midnight, then we used to go home again.

JS: So all of you would go with your --

NM: The store was wide open, too. Japanese have a system of putting in a flat piece of board, they lock it up on the floor, then they put the door in, put each, one door each, then we used to lock it up, then we used to go home. So we had two places, so we used to walk home all the time. There was, alley was not paved yet, you know. China Alley was paved. All the, Fagan Alley, they were dirt. Rainy day, it's so muddy. [Laughs]

TI: So it sounds like your, your mother worked really hard. So she was --

NM: That apartment was two-bedroom and a small kitchen. No running water. No running water there. Then there was an outside, there was about five apartment, all the same, two bedroom and one kitchen. All, everybody used one toilet, men and women, that's it. So we never had a bathroom. We used to go in to the washtub, you know, big washtub?

JS: Ofuro?

NM: Ofuro, yeah. Well, I didn't know ofuro when I was a kid, we were all jumping in there, wash. They used to wash. Yeah, as we grew up, there's a bathhouse. There's four bathhouse in Fresno that time. One right there by Kern Street, F Street, Tulare Street, and one in China Alley. But that one closed early, but there was those bathhouse. And then we'd pay a nickel to go into the, and then we got two towel. Kids were five cents, otona was ten cents like that. So we used to... when we go to the bathroom, we have to pay five cents, then the adult was ten or fifteen cents, I forgot. We got one wash towel, one dry towel, and then we go into the bath. Then right in the middle, there's a partition. This is a special babasan no... there's a barbershop in the front, and there's a little bathtub, special, somebody wants to use that bathroom... that bowl. Tub. Yeah, that long tub, that cost about twenty-five cents to... some people use that, too. They want to be private, they got that room there, they wash up. Then the people that use, all going together, want a little partition, women this side, men that side. You could hear them talking. [Laughs] They could hear us. But the tub was partitioned off, yeah. The water wasn't different, so the ladies and men. Then they'll have one shower. Then we got that, when we go in, we pay five cents, adult ten cents, and then we get two towel, one to wash and one to dry off. So every time I go there...

JS: So you would go to the bathhouse with your brother?

NM: Huh?

JS: You and your brother would go to the bathhouse?

NM: At home, we usually use a tub, too.

JS: Oh, there's a tub at the house?

NM: Yeah. We didn't go to bathhouse every night, yeah. It was a treat when we went to the... yeah. [Laughs]

JS: So a special treat to go to the bathhouse.

NM: Yeah.

JS: But you had to, you had to walk a distance?

NM: Well, it was close by.

JS: Close by, Fagan Alley?

NM: It was only about two block walk. We used to get home close by as much as possible. Then when we moved one time, we came to the Buddhist church. Right in the middle, there were three resident homes there. There was rental, then we got that couple of years. So they had a bath, it was Nihonburo, they burn the wood, then heat it up. Then when we go there, that bath was ready for us already. Of course, we used that later. Three family was, they used it. We moved in there, it was so good. The bath was right there. And then, but the bathroom was outside. Yeah, they were outside.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JS: So that apartment was right near the Buddhist church?

NM: Yeah, right there by the Buddhist church. No, not there.

JS: Not that one, that's a old picture, huh? Okay. That's okay. Can you tell us about the Buddhist church?

NM: Yes. [Indicating photograph] Buddhist church is right here. This is the Buddhist church. Here's an extension, one square block. One square block, half of that was Buddhist church's property. So we had Olympics, races like that, we used to have it right there. And we make a circle... see, they're running -- I'm glad you got it. I've got the picture, too.


JS: So who were the other families that lived there? The names of the families, three families?


(Narr. note: In the first house as Mrs. and Mrs. Kofu with two daughters. In the second house was Mrs. and Mrs. Yamamoto with three children. In the third house was Mrs. and Mrs. Masuda with six children.)

NM: So we moved out, and we moved about two times. And then the third time was the charm. We got next to a theater. There was two theater, one on F Street and one on Tulare Street. We had our store there, and then that's when we were starting to come up. The Depression was going, you know, but it still hit us, but we were coming out of the red. Because everything, I used to deliver newspaper, the Rafu Shimpo, and now Asahi, another San Francisco paper I had. Two routes, I got fifteen dollar. My fifteen dollar went right into the rent, see, because we had to rent the store or rent the home. And then I got a picture of the house. See, that was a... it looks bare, you know, just like this, front door, window, window. You look out, gee, looked like a two-bedroom, it was a four-bedroom home. And then we had seven kids, eight... so we had lots of room. You didn't have to use the little living room we had, we didn't have to use. We used all the bedrooms. And then one time, I almost burned the whole, I almost exploded. You know, my dad did everything he can. He was a gardener, then he raised vegetables. He was raising vegetables, so I used to help him. Then this family came to Japan for a year. He said, "Do whatever you want, make whatever you want." So we took over that one year time. We planted carrots, turnips, and so I had to work on that. Oh, god, I had to go to school, I had to go to the market, I slept in the car, truck. Morning time, two o'clock, you get up, and then I'm sleeping, they're waking me up, "Hey, Nori, you got to get up." Two o'clock, we got to get up and sell our things. Yeah. So my senior year I had a hard time. I almost, I told my mom I'm gonna quit my job. I can't take it anymore. She said, "No, you got to go to school." I finally finished. In fact, I was lucky to finish. My teacher, I transferred to Fresno High School, then they let me off easy. One hour in the morning, one hour at night. That's why I only went a couple of hours, school, high school, then I got my graduation notice. I was very lucky that teacher was... in fact, I was sleeping in the car, there was a fellow named Tak Kunishige who was about the same age as I am. We played basketball and baseball together. He's a star, you know. And then the teacher asked him, "What's the matter with him?" "Oh, he's working at the nighttimes." "Oh, let him sleep then." So I kind of slept. I was lucky, very lucky.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: You mentioned that at one point, you almost burned the house down. How did that happen?

NM: Oh, during that time, you know, I go to school, come back, I get off one hour early, I go to school one hour late. So I only went to about, school, one and a half hour. But they let me go. So my mother was running the store, and there was a garage there that came with that rental. So I have the truck in there. Everything, when I work in the field, I take it to market, and I sold my turnip and carrots and all that. What I don't sell, I wet it down with a sack, then I leave it in the garage in the back of the store, and then I go to, streetcar, high school, and I finally graduated. But those were the hardest times for me, yeah. And then, in fact, one night, I came home, and then I took a bath, I forgot all about the tank. I have the boiling heat going full blast, and then all of a sudden, wow, everything is on. I turned the water on, steam come out. Boy, I turned the, get the pressure up, then I turned that heater off. Good thing it didn't explode. Almost ready to. They were going, shoom, shoom, you know, all the steam was. I was very lucky at that time, yeah, it didn't blow up. Gee. Those things I still remember. Then I would go to the market, sell, had to sleep, if I don't get up, there were people, lot of Nihonjin that, "Nori, get up." They all telling me, they knew what kind of a thing I was doing, see. They knew I was working there, I was going to school. So they were all good to me.

JS: So where would you sell the vegetables? Where in Fresno would you have to take the...

NM: You know, when we sell it, we sorted, have it on the truck already. And then all we do is just take it off, then it's all wet yet. Then we put it, we park it so we could sell it right away. I take the cover off and then sell it. And then the market, Pacific, P&P or something, they used, ANT, they had all kinds of big groceries. The big store was coming up. Before, it used to be a tiny grocery store. But you know, these American, big Safeway, like that, they came in. And they come to buy it. Said, "Oh, dozen of that," "Where's your good carrots?" [Laughs] All kind of things. They were all good to us, though, yeah. And then Nihonjin was, we're all right there. And they came from Selma, Sanger, River Bottom, like that. So I got to know a lot of guys. Then sometimes we'd, they had donation, like a city, donation, and then they come to us. Okay, we'll give 'em credit on so-and-so, carrot, cucumber, yeah. Then, you know, those days, that Italian squash, zucchini? If it's like this, and they're about this size, it was good. If it's big, they says, "Oh, we don't want it." Now they want it big. [Laughs] Yeah. That's the funny thing. They said the smaller, it's tasty or something. And then, but time changes, you know.

TI: So Nori, I have a question. Was it common for people to work as hard as you?

NM: Huh?

TI: Was it common for others to work as hard as you did? You know, your classmates, people your own age? You worked at night, all day, was it common?

NM: Hardly nobody.

TI: So you were kind of unusual then?

NM: Nobody... I guess I'm the only one that did it, yeah. See, I come back, have kind of a rest at my house, then I parked my car, of course, a truck. And then I go to the market about ten o'clock, and then I sleep in the cab there. And then if I'm sleeping, they wake me up. They knew where I was. [Laughs] But they were all good to me at that time, yeah.

TI: So, Nori, why? Why did you work so hard?

NM: We can't help it. If we don't, if I don't do it, my older brother, he was in L.A., and he never come back. He's still there. He's still there. He's ninety-six now.

JS: Oh.

NM: I'm ninety-four. Yeah, but he's still healthy.

TI: But you needed to do it for the family?

NM: Yeah. Because of the family, I have to... if I quit, my mother said, "No, you've got to go to school." I finally, I was lucky that he passed me, yeah. I think I got a flunking notice, but they let me go, so I graduated Fresno High School.

TI: But it was important for the family for you to make money, too. So you had to work and go to school.

NM: Yeah, all the money, I never got a cent. All right to the family. When I was thirteen, I used to deliver newspaper, too. This is not when I was working in the field. Before that, Depression was so bad, you know, and I had Rafu Shimpo and another Japanese paper, I got fifteen dollars for both of 'em. Both of 'em went to the family rental. And so I never had a nickel in my pocket in school. Yeah. Once in a while I did have, I used to buy a nickel sandwich. French bread, cut it in half, and god, that was a treat for me.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JS: You told me one time that you would help at a restaurant?

NM: Huh?

JS: Do you remember? You used to help at a restaurant in the morning...

NM: I used to work in the restaurant first. My first job was restaurant. I got three dollars, I used to... the reason they needed me was to write the menu on the board, you know, blackboard, I wrote that. And then I sweep the floor, take all the dishes and wait, everything. So I learned -- that's my first job, restaurant. And half a year I did it, three dollar a week. Three dollar went to my folks.

JS: Do you remember the name of the restaurant?

NM: Huh?

JS: The name of the restaurant, or who was the owner?

NM: Which restaurant?

JS: Uh-huh.

NM: Hikiji, the first restaurant I worked. And I used to sweep the floor. Before I left, I'd go there six in the morning, eight o'clock, I'd go to school. And then they fed me breakfast, of course. Then I do all the... before I leave the, all the pots and pans, I wash it and have it ready for them to use it for the stew meat and all that. They got to get that ready, see. So morning time, I knew what to do. Sweep the floor, keep it clean, menu, write the menu.

JS: So they needed you to write the menu in English?

NM: Yeah, then the pies and all that. And half year I did that, restaurant. Then the newspaper route opened up for me. I said, "Okay, I'll take the newspaper because that's the more healthier than the outdoor." And then I did that while I was going to school. Then dog used to come after me, you know, the family, god, then I got my feet up there, and it still come. So one time I had a rock, had it in my bag. [Laughs] I was ready for it. And then it came, here they come. One come, boom, I hit him right here. [Gestures to forehead] Yelled, and ran home. Next day, they never come after me. I'm waiting for them, they don't come. They're smart. So newspaper and all that. But I had to give away that newspaper route to somebody else, because my dad started working in the vegetables, so I helped him more. So somebody else started doing it. So I had the newspaper route, all kinds of job. Restaurant I worked. In Fresno, ten different places. You work hard, they'll hire you, yeah. In those days, one day, two day, I used to go. They wanted help. So they used to pay me pretty good, yeah. So any kind of job at restaurant. Well, I could still hold two cup and saucer, coffee, like, this. [Laughs]

JS: [Laughs] Many skills.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JS: So you worked so hard, how did you have time to do all the sports? You participated in lots of sports.

NM: I liked baseball.

JS: Uh-huh, baseball. One of my best, baseball, softball, of course. Yeah, that's all I knew, softball, softball, softball. Up to third, fourth, fifth grade, I was playing softball. That's why Lincoln school, we won the city champion. And there was two Nihonjin, myself and Hiroshi Nakai. And he and I were the only two Japanese that were on that team. We got a picture. So we won the championship that day, that year, 1929. [Laughs] I was a sixth grader at that time, grammar school, city champion. Got our picture and all that. Then I went to, when I went to Edison, it was junior high school, seventh, eighth grade. Then I started to play basketball. The basketball started coming in at that time, and I loved basketball, so I started playing that. I went out for high school, I went... I had played two years. Started to be tall, you know, and I kind of got tiptoed, you know. And they were mad, so, "Masuda, put your heels down." I got caught. [Laughs] I'm only 5'2", 5'3". Things like that. But I played C Team, A, B, C they had. I played for C Team. C two years, second year, first year, we didn't win a game. Second year, we won every game. We were the city champion. We were lucky. Then all the group, same team, said, "Nori, let's go on the B Team. Let's go the B." I thought, "I'm gonna sign for varsity and see what I can do." So I told 'em, "I won't be able to play with you." I made the varsity. So yes, I played.

TI: So you were a good athlete.

NM: Huh?

TI: You were a really good athlete, good player?

NM: I played, yeah. I played, I went out for track, football, basketball. I even played tennis, but they didn't have a tennis court. I played at church all the time, tennis. I was quite a player.

TI: And so within the Japanese community, amongst the other Japanese, were you one of the better, better players, better athletes?

NM: I played quite a bit.

TI: Like on Japanese baseball teams?

NM: Yeah, Zenimura's... I was taught from Zenimura and all that, yeah.

TI: And so what position did you play?

NM: But I liked basketball some more, so I went all for basketball. But when I played baseball, I used to catch. But I got bone bruises right here, you know, catching, and I couldn't catch anymore. So I played in the outfield. 'Cause one day -- this was in camp. We had a baseball field, you know, I went in the camp 1942, '42, went in camp, to assembly center. There was a field there. Zenimura was there, he's the baseball man. He's Mr. Baseball, Zenimura. [Indicates photograph] He's right here, this fellow here. Zenimura.

TI: Where are you?

NM: And then this is Yoshikawa, and this is Tsukimura. These three are A-class player. They could play any American league. They're good. They didn't hire any Japanese, they're prejudiced. But Tsukimura... Iwata's not in here. But Zenimura, Yoshikawa, and Nakagawa. They were the best players in the Japanese, and they got Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, they got a picture of that.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Well, so you must have been good, too, to play with these, these men. You were good.

NM: Well, no. He's way up there. Zenimura's way up, I'm way down. Basketball took over for me. I started playing basketball, so I'm in the varsity in Edison. And then, in fact, if it wasn't for Fresno High School, I wouldn't have graduated high school. Because I was going to Edison, I was playing basketball like that. I played Edison, I played against Fresno High School. That next semester, I was in Fresno High School. 'Cause I could get one hour off, one hour afternoon off. So I was very lucky to go hour and a half and then graduate. I thought I wasn't gonna graduate. In fact, I slept in the classroom, and Tak kinda saved me. Says, "Well, he's working in the market, coming home late."

JS: So why, why did Fresno High School let you start late and leave early?

NM: They didn't know about that. I just made it, chance. 'Cause I figured, I can get one hour off or something like that. So I went to high school. I thought they weren't gonna let me in, but they let me in, so I stayed there. And I was very lucky to graduate high school. In fact, I was ready to quit, 'cause my body didn't take it. That's why I almost blew the house up. I was lucky I didn't do that.

JS: Can you tell us about sumo? [Indicates photograph] This is you, huh?

NM: Yeah.

JS: Yeah, you're so cute.

NM: Here's Tak.

JS: Oh, that's your friend Tak?

NM: Tak Kunishige. He's alive yet. He and I are the only ones that get together. We get together. He's healthy, and he's an athlete. He was a good football player, basketball player, but baseball, he didn't play. I played baseball. So anyway, Tak Kunishige, he's still healthy.


JS: Okay, so Nori, I wanted you to describe the sumo wrestling and how that...

NM: How I got into it?

JS: How you got into it and where you would practice.

NM: Yeah. When I was... let's see, how old, I can't remember how old, when I moved from [inaudible], but was a young age. We moved the family home to that church, you know, house. That's when we first moved home. Store was... well, we moved that store, too. We went to E Street, and then we went to Tulare Street, we then went to E Street, and then F Street. F Street was next to the theater. That's third one. That's why my folks moved to F Street, and then we had a home right... church. And then later on, we moved to another home where they had four bedroom. We needed it, four bedroom, because that's... two bedroom, four bedroom, then we had that for our home, only one block away from our store. There's a fire department right there right now, today. Right on the alley corner, our home was there. It's all wooden buildings. That's the one I almost blew up. Gee, lucky I didn't blow it up, yeah. Otherwise, neighbor would have been hurt and all that. We had a store in... then that store, theater, people come in and out. Our store's kind of... got goods. We even bought a popcorn machine, and then the popcorn starts on, and oh, gave the smell all over the town, the popcorn's so good. Yeah, those were, those popcorn goes "bara bara," it comes all out. Gee. And my mother's the only one that touches that. She's used to run the whole popcorn, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. They had heated up, and we sold it. And they come by, we had a seed about this size, one time we had this house, we sold. The only reason the Japanese in Fresno survived was the Mexican people. You know, the Mexican people, they all come to Fresno to pick grapes. They go out to the farm picking grapes, but the family, the kids, come with them. The kids help, too. Some places they said they don't want kids, but lot of times they let it go. They can't leave their small kids, you know, so they go together out in the field, so they say, "That's okay." So they work hard. And Friday, they come into town, they have restaurants. I worked in the restaurant, I know they spend money. The family, boy, they eat okay. They eat good. I tell all my Spanish friends, "You know, if it wasn't for you people, we wouldn't have survived," I even told them. They saved us.

JS: So what year was that? When the Mexican families started working in the fields... what years, approximately? 'Cause first, lots of Japanese --

NM: See, there's a lot of Mexican coming in, all the time. And they come to the grape field, and then they start working. And they come into town, and then they come to the restaurant, they come to the store, they go to the movie. You couldn't walk around one block. You got a dozen people. It was that busy. F Street, both sides, full of people, Saturday, Sunday now. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, like that. So they survived, all the Japanese town. Because the restaurants, there was about twelve Japanese restaurants run by Japanese, and they sell nothing but American food, you know, hot dogs, hamburger steak. Hamburger steak is what they wanted. And then they liked beer, too. So we had to learn a little Spanish. [Inaudible] we learned Spanish. I learned Spanish in school. [Laughs] But it was that way. So I tell all my Spanish people, "You saved our lives." Japanese town survived because of them. I worked for the Japanese soda water bottle, making soda water. You know, after my graduation, my dad gave away to the farm, my dad came back to the store. Then, of course, wartime, we had to leave everything.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JS: So can you tell us about the Rose Bottling Company?

NM: Rose Bottling?

JS: That's where you worked?

NM: I got a picture, you know. I'll show you later, yeah. It was Fresno, one summer, right after I graduated high school. I was around Chinatown, I met Mr. Kimura, he's the owner. He said, "You want a job?" I said, "Yes. Well, what is it?" "Soda water." "Oh, yeah. I'll be there." "Come eight o'clock," I went there. Six years, not one day I missed. I worked hard, right on time. And they wanted me to work 'til the last day. You know, the war started, that's the downfall. Well, everybody had to quit, you know. Everybody had to quit their business, this and that. Anyway, because I went to work for them, I got to go deliver, you know. We went to, from far, certain days we went to Fowler, Selma, Kingsburg, Dinuba, Reedley, Del Rey, and then come back home. Then one day a week, we went to Delano. That's about seventy-five miles. So two trucks went to, we sell everything from wine, soda water. And the soda water is all made by the Mrs. Kimura. She's the one that mixed the sweeteners and flavor, then she'd tell us, what we want? Lemon, lime, orange, strawberry, we had all kinds of soda water, the one she makes, the syrup and all that. And then we helped her, I put the empty bottle right on the top, that kind of deal, we put it upside down. Then washes the bottle, it goes through, then it turns over, and straight up, and come in, come to the machine there, syrup goes in there, then the water, then the soda is made. And then it goes around, and then I take that off of that and I put that into the... so put the, keep on working. So I load that on one little truck there, then about half a dozen, I pull it away, stack 'em up, come back and get that... it was work, yeah. We stack it up about nine high. One of 'em, we kind of throw up, and stack 'em up, you know. Then orange, strawberry cream, root beer, and then they got wine, too. Wines that... fifty gallon, that's heavy, you can't lift it. But rolling it up, we got two guys to put it up on the stand there, then we put the nozzle, and get the wine, we fill the wine, too.

JS: So you filled the wine bottles?

NM: Yeah, wine bottles. We got empty bottles, and we fill that. So they had beer... beer, they don't make. They order it from, they used to call it... I forgot the name of the beer, now. Yeah, we used to have about three or four different [inaudible]... there was a Fresno lager... anyway, we had about two or three beer. We get that, and we sell it to the store. We get it wholesale, see, and then we deliver. Delano, we used to have two trucks go there. Come back empty. Big business in Delano.

JS: Where was the wine from?

NM: Wine?

JS: Uh-huh.

NM: Regular wine, there's Tulare winery, we used to order it from them. We'd get... what kind of wine was it? Regular wine. You name it...

JS: Oh, like chardonnay? White wine or red wine?

NM: It's a red wine and a white wine, all that. It comes in a bottle, they're about eighty-five cents, those days. Today, it's high.

JS: Uh-huh. So you had, at the Rose Bottling Company, you helped refill the bottles and do the loading, and then also delivery?

NM: You know, soda water, we got one type of bottle. One clear, strawberry, lemon. They changed the flavor, Obachan does that. So she's the one that... the Mr. is just man that goes there, "I'm the owner." [Laughs]

JS: He's the honcho.

NM: Yeah, honcho. So we just follow them, yeah. But he'd get connection, of course. He's the one that played Hana, too. Hana, when we come to Reedley, they got Hana and then they don't move. [Laughs] So we got to call, then we go back home, yeah. We used to go all over. Twice a week, we went to the local towns: Fowler, Selma, Kingsburg, Dinuba, Reedley, Del Rey. And we go there twice a... Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then Wednesdays we go to Delano one day. Then the other days, Fresno, they go around. They had two boys there. One boy was too young to work yet, but the other one, they're all gone. They're all gone. Kimura...

JS: Kimura family?

NM: Rose Bottling.

TI: So a question, Coca-cola, what happened when the big, like, soda pop companies...

NM: Pepsi?

TI: Pepsi and Coca-cola, did you compete against them?

NM: Yeah. We go to the Pepsi company and we get it at a wholesale price, and we sell that. So they give us a... we got to make money, too, so they gave us a cutdown price.

TI: I see, so you would help sell that?

NM: So we do carry that, too. Wine, we did it, too. Wine, we got a gallon type, and then a pint type. When we'd make the pint, we get that barrel up there, now then, when it's up, plug it. Yeah, we do that. Soda water, the obasan does that, machine. All we do is just, when it's full, I take it all and put 'em on the truck and push it and stack 'em up and come back. And boy, I had to catch that first box. [Laughs] In the meantime, my empty bottles, I got to put in, it was busy. But it was, going back. Yeah, sometimes I toss it up, sometimes it hits it wrong, pop. But never got hurt, we were lucky.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JS: So Nori, would you also deliver to the drink stores in Chinatown?

NM: You know, well, that thing, she's making the soda water coming down, drops in the syrup, then the water goes, shoom, she takes that out and put it in the case. And by the time I stack it up, I have to come back. It's just about ready, boom, get that to... she got to keep working all the time. So I had to do it, under it fast. You can't stall. [Laughs] Yeah. But it was a lot of hard work. I worked hard over six years. I didn't miss a day. So I think they liked me at that time. But when the war came on, we couldn't believe it. Oh, god, last day, 1941, we can't go out, more than 5 miles out from our house. And you can't drive more than 5 miles away, you can't go noplace. So Kimuras, they just sold Fresno. I started helping at the church, so I was at the church. And you know what? All the ministers got taken. They got pulled out just the way they were. What they had on, they didn't go back to their room. They picked them. Then all of a sudden, everybody said, "Say, Sensei's not around." "Oh, they're taken away." Sometime the Sasaki family, "Hey, you're father's gone, where is he?" "Tanaka, oh yeah, he's gone, too." We didn't know what happened. The FBI just carried them off right without saying nothing. They just pulled 'em out, "Gee, who's gonna be next?" We were worried. "I hope my dad don't get pulled out," you know, this and that. Lucky we didn't get pulled out, yeah. But sometimes they got pulled out, boy, I felt sorry for them. They don't know where he went, nobody, they don't say nothing.

TI: Yeah, I want to ask you more about that, but let's make sure we get all the prewar stuff.

JS: Actually, we can go into that.

TI: Because I was gonna start from December 7th. Did you want to --

JS: No, let's do that, 'cause he's on a roll.

NM: They pulled them out, and then, "Who's gonna be next?" We were wondering, you know. But they didn't take any more, and then few of the people that had kendo, there's a teacher like that, they got pulled in, too. And then wherever it was had something to do with kendo, they got pulled in. But they don't know where they went for so long. All of a sudden, I know there was Tanaka, a good friend of mine, their husband got pulled in. They don't know where he is. And then one time, we're in the courthouse part, you know, then I was looking at the jail. The jail was small, you know, small building, two-story building, and that was the jail. Today, it's a big nine-story jail. But those days, it was just right on the courthouse part there. Look in there, Tanaka, I know him. "Tanaka-san." He was in there. So I told the wife, "I saw your husband. He's in the jail," and sure enough, he was in there. Yeah, jail. Those days, that was a small jail. Fresno, small jail. Today, it's a big building, jail, nine stories high and all. But at that time, boy, everybody worried. You know, the wife, they don't know where their... then they, finally, they got notice. Then they were sent to San Francisco, certain place you can go see them there. So one time I had to take one of the minister's wife like that. Kawaisou da yo, boy, it's sure sad. I took 'em there...

JS: To San Francisco?

NM: And then found out where to go. First time they met, minister, oh, that was sad in those days. They didn't, they were mean, that time. And you know, the whole Fresno people, in fact, all over, they didn't talk to Japanese anymore. And then they start saying something about, "You guys are gonna move out," this and that. It happened. I thought never, it'll never happen. But it did happen. Yeah. After that January, December 7th, first of January --

TI: So can we, let's start with December 7th. I want to ask, on that day, where were you when December 7, 1941? Tell me about that day.

NM: That day, there's a basketball season, it was December. And we were at a place called, coffee shop, Araki. They had Araki coffee shop, ice cream parlor, this and that. We used to hang out there. Then somebody said, "Nori, come here." It was Sunday morning, and we were getting ready. It was about twelve o'clock. Said, "Nori, come here." They were listening to the radio. Said, "Japan is bombing Pearl Harbor." Where in the hell is Pearl Harbor? We didn't know, you know. They were gonna go play basketball in Sanger. See, we have a gymnasium reserved there for about four or five games, all day, see. So we used to get together there. Then we go there, "Hey, you guys hear anything about the war?" "No, nothing." There must be a story or something. See, those days, nobody was listening to radio or anything in the morning. Radio was something real nice. But they said, okay, after they told us that we were gonna be restricted no more than five miles, you can't go out more than five miles, you got to stay in your house, eight o'clock to six a.m. eight p.m. to six. If you're out, you'll be in jail. If you're white, it could be your fault. Nobody would stick up for the Nihonjin at that time. So it was so bad. Then it was dangerous. There was some people in Sacramento being shot, San Francisco, somebody said, they knock on the door, they won't open up, they get shot at. That was happening. Fresno, one incident, I found out some Japanese family got shot through the house. And that's the only one I know in Fresno, yeah. I know the man, it's Nakagawa. They hardly talk about it. So I don't want to say too much about that. But it did happen in Fresno.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So we're gonna start again. So earlier you talked about after December 7th, the Rose Bottling Company had to shut down?

NM: Oh, I was talking about that, huh?

TI: Right. But after that, you said you went to the Buddhist church to help out? So after you, the Rose Bottling Company closed down...

NM: Yeah.

TI: Then you went to the Buddhist church to help?

NM: The Rose Bottling, okay, they can't go more than five miles.

TI: Right.

NM: And most of their business is outside.

TI: Right.

NM: So all they did was local. And that was a short time, you know. So they knew time was short, now. 'Cause they knew we were gonna move. I didn't think it was gonna happen. I thought that would never... U.S. government won't do that.

TI: But after the Rose Bottling closed down, what did you do after the Rose Bottling?

NM: When Rose Bottling closed down? They ran the local.

TI: But, no, what did you do?

NM: Me? I went to the church. I helped the, all the minister was taken. There was about five minister. Except one minister, he was a Nisei. All the others, Issei, or they came from Japan. So that's why they got taken in. They figured they might be spies. But the Nisei, he was the only one at the church. So we were lucky we had one, anyway. So I helped at the office, yeah. And then I took care of all that, and then we had to close that church. Nobody there, nobody come there now. So what we gonna do? We got, you know, those ashes? There was over three hundred ashes in the small room like this at the church. You know, there was an altar there on the left side room? You go in there, you smell the ash smell. Anyway, we told, in the newspaper, we told people who had their ashes there, "Please come and get it. For those of you who don't want to take it, donate ten dollars, we'll collect the ten dollars, we'll make a little vault." So we announced that, we got the money, we built the vault, it's still there. It's a small vault, but we put that all in. But bringing that here, over there to the cemetery was another thing. Oh, god, that's heavy, those ashes. And then one, 1918, church was fired, that thing all burned down. So the ashes, they picked up what ash they thought was human ash and put it in one big box. And then people that came said, "My family no ash is not here." That means, okay, we'll mix one, we made that.

TI: Oh, so out of the bigger box, they made a smaller one?

NM: No, it's made out of copper, yeah. Metal anyway. Then we used to give it to them as their nani. If they want to leave it, "Okay, you could leave it, we'll put it in the safe." We built that thing back there in the yard there. You know, where we have a memorial service at the graveyard? Well, there's one small building, we put a lot of things in there. So lot of 'em that wants it in there, they take that. So nothing is in there. So that's why that room smells different. Gee, but taking that over there was hard. There was Muneshige, Ito, there was about four or five people all the time coming to church, and then they helped us.

TI: And then what else did you have to do to make the church ready for when you left?

NM: To move out?

TI: Yeah, what else?

NM: That time, we have to have a doctor, you know, this and that. Everybody got together. Doctors got together, nurses got together, then they said if we're going into the camp, boy, we got to give 'em shots. Dr. Taira was the leader. He's the one that did all the, what to give and all that. Dr. Taira, Dr. Kozado Hashiba. Anyway, some of the doctors all got together, too, and they helped out at the church, they'll give you a shot before we went into camp. That's why everybody gathered there. Oh, god, some kids don't want to get shot, yelling. Some kids are afraid, yeah. And then we have one kid, I still remember, he just won't budge, but he finally got it. He's still around. [Laughs] Yeah.

TI: How about --

NM: And then we told everybody who wants to get certain kind of shot, come and get it. There was no charge. And they came and they got it. So they had, about two, three times, they had shot for the people around Fresno that's going in the camps. They knew, you know. So they have, got their shots.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And the other thing you did was you brought one of the minister's wives to San Francisco?

NM: Yeah.

TI: And so you brought her to San Francisco to see her husband.

NM: Their husband, I still don't know where they were, yeah. But I know one Tanaka family was in Fresno. And I saw him in jail, Fresno.

TI: Right. No, you told me that, but then you also said how you drove someone to San Francisco?

NM: Yeah, yeah. There was some, central San Francisco, but they didn't know. That's all they knew up there, that you can go see them, then they will come back. Then after that, they didn't know where they were. Then later on, they said they were in... what was it? Some Texas camp, anyway. They don't mention those camp at all, yeah. It was a different camp. I think some were in Dakota, too. Yeah. So I don't know exactly where, but I know I took them to San Francisco, and we went to the, some international deal, place, where the immigration was. We went someplace around there, and then they met.

TI: So can you, yeah, describe that. I'm curious what the station... first, how did you get permission to go? Because didn't you have the five mile rule?

NM: Yeah. That's right. But they let us go there. And then they saw them, and then they came back.

TI: So why did they choose you to drive to San Francisco?

NM: Nobody else will go. Everybody's all busy. I didn't want to drive that much, I'm not a driver. [Laughs] So, but you know, you have kids and all that, so I said, "I'll go," then I took 'em out there, then we came back.

TI: And who did you take to San Francisco? Who did you drive?

NM: I did the driving.

TI: No, but who did you go with?

NM: Huh?

TI: Who did you go with? Who was in the car with you?

NM: Oh, that lady, the family.

TI: And what was their name?

NM: Reverend's wife. There was one from the outside, they were in Fresno, see. And he was doing the Fresno no nani, so we had to... then came back. And that's all. They don't give, tell you nothing.

TI: Now, did you go inside with the reverend's wife? Did you go inside?

NM: I went... no, I wasn't able to see how they met. They took 'em in, and then they met. I don't know where I was.

TI: So when you came back to Fresno, did you, did you talk with the wife? Did she tell you anything?

NM: No, no.

TI: She didn't say anything.

NM: God, I forgot what that name was, even. But if I check [inaudible], I could find out.

TI: Okay, no, that's okay. It's a good story.

NM: They were pretty strict about places. They won't tell you nothing. You know, what do you call that? Gun like that, any kind of gun, butcher knife, swords, turned it in to... even cameras, you had to turn it in. Gee, my brother had Leica and all that, camera, I had to check it in. But we got it back, though. Yeah.

TI: Oh, even the Leica camera, you got that back? That's good.

NM: Yeah, number and all that. Leica was a good camera, and geez, I wondered what's gonna happen? We can't take it in, so we had to... and then afterwards they said, "We're gonna send you your camera," so we got it sent, and it came to us.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Back at the church, what else did you have to do to get it ready? Because pretty soon you had to leave, how did you close the church up? What did you have to do to get the church ready?

NM: Information, spread that information --

TI: Well, after that, then pretty soon you had to leave.

NM: Huh?

TI: Pretty soon people had to leave Fresno? So the church, what happened to the church when people left?

NM: We just had to get all that ashes out.

TI: Right.

NM: You can't leave it in there, so that's why we built that vault.

TI: Right.

NM: Where we shipped it there, and heavy, oh god, those things are heavy. And then we moved it -- it's still there, but now we got a bigger vault there, so it's all in there. The other one is sort of a stockroom. They're still using that other building, too.

TI: And then when you left the church, did you lock up the church?

NM: Big altar, they put a board there. But I heard they broke that all up. But the altar, they didn't, they left it. They didn't touch it. 'Cause I didn't come back right away from Japan. I stayed there another seven years, see. So during that time, I think nothing was broken.

TI: How about your family's, the store? What happened to that?

NM: Oh, we had to sell a lot of things. But nobody buys it now. You know, there's a fan, you pay twenty-five dollars, five dollars, maybe they want... we had a popcorn machine, we paid three hundred something, maybe about eighty, ninety dollars we sold that.

TI: And who did you sell it to? Who bought, who bought the popcorn machine?

NM: Oh, somebody come by, they're looking for some kinds of things like that. Popcorn machine was very popular at that time. And then we had to sell it for about eighty, ninety dollars. Cost about thirty-four hundred dollars. So they bought that. And then, see, I was in already. I volunteered to go in first. Anyway, my folks, I had another younger brother, he took care of that, they packed up everything, and then when I told 'em, "I'm gonna volunteer and I'm gonna go in first, so give me all the big futon," you know. 'Cause we got futon, there were seven, six kids. My brother was in the army already. My older brother was a Japanese soldier, we were all, only one, my older brother was in the army, so there were six of us, seven of us. So we had to take a lot of futon. So I took all that big bundle, they said, "Only what you can carry, suitcase." So I put another extra wrapping. [Laughs] I got three of 'em in there. No camera, no radio. No, radio was okay, yeah. But if there was a shortwave, they said you gotta cut that shortwave section out. So I got my small radio in camp, so I got the music. So I went in first, I volunteered. Because I had a life insurance I want to pay up. And if I go in there, I got no money, so I got to work, how much they pay? Eight dollar, ten dollar, and twelve dollar. Skilled labor, twelve dollar, professional, twelve dollar -- no, sixteen, sixteen dollar. And then twelve dollar, eight dollar. I got paid eight dollar a month. A month, now, one month work, eight dollar. For that six months, that pays my insurance. So I said, "I'll take it." [Laughs] That's what I did. I didn't want to lose my insurance. So at least I can get that.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So when you got to Fresno, what was it like? You were, like, one of the first ones there.

NM: When I came back?

TI: No, when you got to the assembly center, Fresno, you volunteered?

NM: When I went in?

TI: Yeah, when you went in, what did it look like?

NM: I looked at it, everything was bad. The barrack, there's, they call it section, they call it. A, B, A to K. And then I could show you something on... and then, you know, that track, horse race? All the section was in there, and there's another half mile block. There's Butler Avenue, they got another half mile block on the other side of that Butler Avenue. And there were about two camps in there. So they were all together, A to K. Section A, B, C, D. That G was the warehouse. The one that, oh, the section, five hundred in the section. And then there's a, in the middle, there were twenty, ten and ten, one to twenty, all in here. There was five hundred people in that section. And then two or three meal, two meals, two hundred fifty each shift. Breakfast, noon, and night. And then we volunteered, so had to feed the first group. So that's why we were in there, and then we did that. And then the next group come in, they make up their own chef and all that, get your own worker like that. So it was all Japanese, nobody from outside came in, yeah. That's why I felt safer. I felt real safe when I went in there. I was afraid outside, yeah. I thought I'd never be afraid and they won't do nothing, but I was afraid. Because when they, they shot at somebody, you know, and then, god, you can't tell who you're gonna talk to, police? Nobody was our friend.

TI: So at the assembly center, what was your job?

NM: My job? There was all kinds of job. My job at first as a kitchen helper. That's how I got in. Eight dollar a month, I got, yeah. And then I was a dishwasher. There's unskilled labor, so I got eight dollar a month, skilled labor got ten, and the professional get twelve or something like that. Then when you went to relocation center in Jerome, they got nineteen, sixteen, and twelve. They went higher. Twelve, sixteen, and nineteen, yeah. And that's per month. Then, of course, when we were assembly center, they gave us a jacket. Montgomery order Montgomery, you could get a jacket, mackinaw jacket or something. So we got that without paying anything, yeah.

TI: And then the other thing you did at the assembly center was the baseball team?

NM: Yeah.

TI: So how did the baseball team get started?

NM: They organized that baseball team. See, once they get set, they have sporting head, they form maybe volleyball tournament, or baseball. So each athlete, baseball player, Zenimura, they come up and they said they wanted to make a diamond. "Okay, you make it." We went out there to help 'em with a shovel, and that was a hay field. It can't be done. It'll take you too long to do, shovel it. Get some plowing machine... so Zenimura and Yoshikawa, Tsukimura, they're the big ones, the heads, they went to the manager to see if we can get some equipment, buy tractor. We're gonna level that off in no time, if the farmer's willing to work on it. Said, "Okay," so they got a tractor, leveler, and then we went with that. We made two diamonds, baseball. Zenimura, all, they're always right on. Zenimura's the one that made the baseball. He's one of the best ones, yeah. And then he went to Arizona. We went to Arkansas, that was the separation we got. But I didn't stay long anyway.

TI: But, so who, who did, who played baseball?

NM: Okay. There's Elk Grove, lot of people want Elk Grove. And Lodi, Florin. I think Lodi was not... I think it was Florin, yeah. Florin people came in in a group, and they had a strong baseball team, yeah. So they formed that, so districts, we got about six or seven team, anyway. A Team and then B Team and C Team, too. So we had about two diamonds made, yeah. And then with that equipment, we had leveling off, cutting everything out, leveling off, it was done fast, right away we finished, yeah. So I got the map for you, too, if you want to see it. I'll give it to you.

TI: But it sounds like, then, all day, people were playing baseball games every day?

NM: Every day somebody's playing, yeah. We got A, B, C, yeah. And then basketball, too, basketball, we got A, B, C, and then we had girls' basketball tournaments like that, yeah, leagues. We stayed there six months. From May to November 3rd, six months, we stayed. That was the longest. Usually three months is about the longest you stayed. But we were wondering why we were, they don't announce where we were going. So we didn't know until it was the last month, September came, then late September, they announced it, that it's gonna be Jerome, Arkansas. [Laughs] So we had a newspaper office, too, it's all run by Japanese, you know. Nobody from outside is in there. Only guys that's, officer is from within that. So it made it safe, yeah. You didn't have to worry about other hakujin coming in or anybody. So lot of 'em, we know the guys. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's go to Jerome. So what was Jerome, Arkansas, like, when you went to Jerome?

NM: Jerome, Arkansas? Well, we went there, they said it's gonna be rainy and this and that, we prepared. It was okay. It is rainy, and then the clay is clay. You walk around in the rain, see, the camp is built, but they got no paths, walking paths, how to get to the kitchen. See, it's a block, there's two hundred fifty in the block. Assembly center was section, there was five hundred. So five hundred went, shift, two times to eat, and then all that, two shifts. Then same thing, two shifts, two hundred fifty in a box this time. But they have forty-six blocks. This one had only about twelve sections, that's about it, you know, assembly center. But everybody got along good, though. There was no fights, nothing. Thank heavens, you know. [Laughs]

TI: So how was it for you? Because you got there in November, so that's like almost wintertime, and so it was a lot cooler.

NM: Yeah. Well, see, we went in May, May the 2nd, volunteer went in first. And we met the first group that come in, they came in, they get settled, they get their own team to cook and do this and that. They choose among them who the chief is and all that.

TI: But then when you went to Jerome, in Jerome, that was November, around November?

NM: No, they started in... October, we're the last ones. October... November, I think I went to November 3 or something. May, June, July, August, September, October, yeah. October.

TI: Okay. So, but when you go to Jerome, Arkansas, it's getting pretty cool then, isn't it? Getting cold in Jerome?

NM: Cold? Oh, that place is kind of damp. The soil is clay, and then the walkway, there's nothing done about walkway, you had to fix it up yourself, or they have a crew to, they got workers to, among us. They work on the laborer, they do fixing like that.

TI: So what kind of paths did you create?

NM: Well, that's why this group is hired already, okay. They come in and they make the, kind of a path for you. Water, drainage... see, the block is all a creek. All the water run into that creek. You know, there's about forty-six blocks in Jerome. Over here was only twelve sections, see. But it didn't rain out here, in Fresno, so it was good. If it rained, it's just soft. But the assembly center, okay, see, there was ten... let's see. I think twenty. Ten and ten, twenty, five hundred people.

TI: Right. So at Jerome, what was your job at Jerome?

NM: Oh, well, you go see the job, what do you want? Like me, I was in the sporting section, you know, when I went to assembly center, so I was in charge of, sometime, sporting, basketball leagues, this and that, yeah. All from within the, our group. Inside, from where they come from, they're all... yeah, so there weren't no argument. And then when we went to Jerome, we're the last ones. So we had our own manager already picked out, so he did everything. So if you know the guy, we could talk to them, you get all, this and that, offered. So everybody go to the east manager, and then the manager go up to the office and they got, they're the city councilor. Like Fresno city, they got a council, something like that, see. And then we got our own police department, all within. [Laughs] But nobody...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So how about the sports in Jerome?

NM: Sport?

TI: Yeah, because you did lots of sports at the --

NM: Yeah. Well, you know, we had all kinds of things. There's ladies basketball, volleyball, and then tennis. But tennis, you can't organize, because there's no court. There's a Butler Avenue, but --

TI: But, no, in Jerome, though. Jerome sports.

NM: Jerome.

TI: What was sports in Jerome?

NM: Tennis, then they didn't play, because they didn't have a tennis court. But they had high school, they had football field, and they had basketball outdoor, yeah. And then Arkansas is clay, see. That's why you got to mix dirt and sand, rough sand. And they bring red sand and mix it up so that we won't be sticking on our shoes all the time. If it's just mud, it just keep gathering, you can't take it off.

TI: And so what kind of sports? Like football, baseball?

NM: Oh, we had baseball. High school had football, okay, they had basketball, and then the camp had basketball. You know, each city, they make their own club. All kinds of club we had, yeah. They had A, B, C, D, you know, smaller kids.

TI: Did, did the Jerome sports teams ever play outside the camp?

NM: We went to, the all-stars from Jerome went to... what was the...

JS: Rohwer?

NM: What was the other camp?

JS: Yeah, Rohwer.

NM: Rohwer, yeah. Went to play the all-star there. So we went to nani, also was an all-star, too, so I went to play with them, and we got beat. And then they returned, and we got beat again. [Laughs] But that's okay. Yeah. See, the high school is all, one of the blocks, they use that sleeping quarters to classrooms, they changed it, Block so and so, the school, yeah. I got some pictures, you can see it later.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: At Jerome, Jerome, after a few months, the government had you fill out, like, a questionnaire. Do you remember the questionnaire that you had to fill out with the "loyalty questionnaire"? You know, like with "yes-yes" or "no-no"?

NM: What do you mean? You go out?

TI: No... to go, well, you had to fill out a form. Do you remember that, when you had to fill out a form about whether or not you're willing to serve in the United States Army or forswearing allegiance to the Japanese emperor?

NM: You mean people going out, out of the camp?

TI: Well, no, everybody in camp had to fill out the form. Do you remember? All the adults. You had to fill out the form, other people filled the form out. Do you remember that? A questionnaire?

NM: Questionnaire?

TI: Yeah, do you remember?

NM: Oh, you mean "yes" and "no"?

TI: Yeah, yeah.

NM: Oh. Oh, yeah, we filled it all out.

TI: Yeah, tell me about that. What was that like?

NM: There's two group of guys. There's one for it, you know. Like us guys was, I was "yes-yes." So we didn't do nothing. "No-no" boys, they don't want to go in the army. They want to go back to the nani. Boy, they were mean. Boy, they called all kinds of names. "You guys, if you guys come back to Japan, we're gonna get you." Yeah, they threatened us. And then what happened? Some main guys that stand up, head guys, they went to Tule Lake, and what do you know? These leaders backed out, and they let the other guys go with them, they went back. Four guys, they can't come back. When they went back, they thought they're gonna get everything. They said, "Oh, we got a lot of things they're gonna give us, gonna be fed," and this and that. "We're gonna get you guys," they said. And what they did was terrible. They got hachimaki, "Yassa, yassa," they're training for the... yell, they're training every morning, every day, in camp.

TI: This is at Tule or at Jerome?

NM: No, this is at Jerome.

TI: Jerome, okay. So Jerome they were --

NM: Our friends. They're the one that, I went to see, "We're gonna get you guys." They were mean. And then when they found out, they went, nothing. They said they got told, "What do you come back for?" That's what they told me. Then, in fact, when I went Japan, I went as a soldier. And I was stationed at ATIS, that's right there by the emperor's, right next door, anyway. Emperor stays there, our building is right there, and we could see the emperor's yard. We had a good place, ATIS. Allied Interpreting or something, Section. And we go up there on the rooftop and we see everything. We see this side, Tokyo, Ginza, so we were in a good place when I first went there.

TI: So this is like McArthur's headquarters, right?

NM: This is in Tokyo.

TI: Yeah, Tokyo, like, headquarters?

NM: Huh?

TI: Is it like headquarters? Like ATIS, right? ATIS?

NM: ATIS, yeah. That's why... Allied...

TI: Right, I can't remember what ATIS stands for, but...

NM: Allied Language... Allied, something anyway. I forgot. Interpreters Section.

TI: But we'll get to that later. Let's go back to Jerome.

NM: Okay, Jerome.

TI: In Jerome, you said that, were there fights between the...

NM: Those guys, they were training. They were Japanese now. Yeah, hachimaki, they're training. Then, "You guys come back, we'll stab you," talk like that. Geez.

TI: So did that cause fights? Were there, in Jerome, were there fights between...

NM: No, we didn't fight, no. Nobody fought. But they threatened. That's what... you couldn't go close to them. So I stood back. I went back. I wanted to see what happened, anyway. That's the way it was there. Boy, they were in hachimaki, and yell, "We're gonna get you. You guys are gonna be sorry." Okay, we go back.

TI: Now, did some of your friends from Fresno, did some of them join that group? Were there, like, some childhood friends of yours that you knew that maybe went to Tule Lake?

NM: Yeah. But the main one was the trained, that had education in Japan. They're the ones that were, they got all the other ones going. And then, okay, everybody was gonna go, they went to Tule Lake. Then I didn't come back right away, see, I stayed in Japan. I stayed another seven years. So when I come back, I heard a lot of this.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So now I want to talk about your family a little bit. At Jerome, you were there with your parents and your brothers and sisters?

NM: Yeah, okay. We asked for our camera and this and that, they send it to us.

TI: In Jerome?

NM: Yeah. They kept it good for us. The government did okay, yeah.

TI: But in Jerome, I just want to talk about each of your family members. Can you tell me your father and mother's name?

NM: Mataichiro, yeah.

TI: Uh-huh, is your father.

NM: Yeah.

TI: And what was your mother's name?


NM: Tasu. T-A-S-U. My mother's name is Tasu.

TI: Okay. And then, in terms of, in camp, you mentioned your oldest brother was in Japan.

NM: Yeah.

TI: In the Japanese army.

NM: That's my father no older brother, he owned that store. They didn't have any kids, so they went back. Going back, they wanted to take that boy, "We'll bring him back next year," or something in that line. They didn't bring him back.

TI: Okay, so he was in Japan.

NM: He lives in Japan.

TI: Then you had another brother, Jim?

NM: Huh?

TI: And then your next brother was Jim?

NM: Jim.

TI: And where was Jim?

NM: Jim was already in the army in 1941, in the, about April. 'Cause I remember he says, "Come get my clothes and camera, this and that," so I went to L.A., and I drove the Kimuras' truck, and I brought the junks back.

TI: Okay, and then after Jim was you, you were the third.

NM: I'm the third, yeah.

TI: But at Jerome, you were the oldest son, then.

NM: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

NM: No, no, no. Jim was my oldest...

TI: Yeah, but he wasn't at Jerome, though.

NM: No, no.

TI: Yeah. Then after you was Dorothy?

NM: Dorothy, yeah. Dorothy, next is Nancy, and then Mike, and then Shigeko, and Shizuto, George.

TI: And so you all lived in the same, in the same apartment?

NM: Yeah, yeah. We were in the, my brother Jim was in the army already, see. Yeah. Then my older brother, he doesn't know a thing about it. In fact, I had his birth certificate one time, when I went to the birth certificate, so I got one for him, and I gave it to her, his daughter. She came --

TI: This is the one that was in Japan?

NM: Yeah.

TI: And what was, what was his name?

NM: Huh?

TI: What was his name? The oldest, what was his name?

NM: Kazuto. Wait a minute, now... I don't use it, so I forgot. I think it was Kazuto, K-A-Z-U-T-O, Kazuto.

TI: But you got his birth certificate.

NM: That's my oldest brother's name, yeah. I didn't know until I was about seventeen. Found out that he got teased. He went to school, see, Japanese school. And then some kids found out that he was born in America, and then I guess he got teased, and then I heard he cried at home, yeah. So my sister Dorothy, kawaisouni, the only one there, he said, "I want to go back, I want to see him." Said, "Okay, if you want go back over to see him," this is way back. She stayed four years, see. So she missed high school out here.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So let's talk about, so after Jerome, where did you go after Jerome?

NM: Jerome... let's see. Anyway, those days, those anti-American, they, "We're gonna get you guys. When you go back to Japan, we'll get you," they came to us. They said, "Gee, Nori, is there any way to get back to... help me, I want to get my, register, and come back to the States." They were all crying like that. But I got, we can't do nothing. You know, we was just a soldier.

TI: Okay, so what you're talking about is when you were in Japan as a soldier, as an American soldier, the people that were at Jerome that wanted to, that went to Tule Lake and then Japan, they now wanted to come back to the United States.

NM: Yeah, they all want to come back.

TI: Right. And then there's some of 'em that, the leaders, now, the leaders, the family heads, now, they're the ones that started to go, go back. They're the ones that came back. The leaders came back.

TI: Back to Jerome, or where?

NM: Fresno.

TI: Fresno, I see.

NM: Yeah. Before they left Japan, they left them alone.

TI: I see. So these --

NM: They came back without telling those guys that, "I'm not gonna go Japan."

TI: I see.

NM: Yeah, that's why I know who they are, but I don't want to say it, you know.

TI: But for you now, going back to Jerome, what did you do after Jerome?

NM: Jerome.

TI: Yeah, after Jerome, where did you go?

NM: After Jerome, I went... assembly center, Jerome...

TI: Yeah.

NM: Well, when I was in Jerome, I stayed there about a year, anyway. I went to Detroit to work outside. Then I started working for a milk company, you know, in Hamtramck. There was a small town named Hamtramck, Michigan, from Detroit. About maybe three or four miles, I guess. Hamtramck. And lot of Polish people. But they would go to, so... but I got hurt, so I came back after half a year, six months, I came back 'cause I can't work. And then found out that the camp was gonna close in so and so time. Then we got to move again, so I says, "I'll stay home until we move, but let's go, where do you want to go?" My dad said, "Go to Rohwer, because when you go to the army, you'll be around here, so you come to camp," like that. So we moved to Rohwer. Yeah, we stayed there. Then, by then, I was, had, I went to New Jersey, and then I worked at the Seabrook Farms. That's a big place.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So tell me about Seabrook. What was Seabrook like?

NM: It was something like camp again. [Laughs] Only there's no fence. It was nice. They had a family place, they're building a family, lot of family coming in, so they were building apartments like that. And then the single guys, we got a dormitory. So the singles stayed in the dormitory, and people, when they bring their wife, would get a cabin, house. It was okay, yeah. But we walked to work. Yeah, the factory like that, walk about three or four blocks.

TI: And how many Japanese were there, and what other groups were there?

NM: Right there, there was, cafeteria was always full. So there was quite a bit of Japanese. 'Cause when I went there, there was a lot of Japanese. [Laughs]

TI: So when you say "lots," maybe, what, a hundred, or how many do you think?

NM: Let's see. Cafeteria was all full, dormitory, there's... there was quite a bit. And what year was it, I went? I forgot when I went. I better check that out.

TI: Okay, well, I can find it other places. But so, but you said it was kind of like camp in that you had apartments and a cafeteria?

NM: Yeah. Well, I was in Jerome, Rohwer. I stayed Rohwer about, maybe six months, then I went to New Jersey.

TI: Now, how did Seabrook recruit you to work there?

NM: Seabrook?

TI: Yeah, how did they get you to work at Seabrook?

NM: Oh, they had a Seabrook Farm near there, yeah. And then I met a Kamikawa, you know, Glen Kamikawa. He's gone now. He said, "Come on, Nori, let's go Seabrook Farms." "What's there?" I said. "Oh, there's Tom and lot of guys there now. And there's a job there." "Okay." And he and I, we went there and we got a job right away. And then we got a single room, dormitory, yeah. And then Glen Kamikawa was married, so we got a family, got a little home, yeah. They can... and then that, Seabrook Farms, they had little grocery store. They were getting it ready. They were just starting it. Grocery store, they were putting in lot of things, they have cafeteria, like, that.

TI: And how much did they pay you? Do you remember how much the pay was?

NM: How much was it? Well, it was a good rate, anyway, yeah. I forgot how much.

TI: But it was a lot better than camp pay.

NM: Enough to... I saved a thousand bucks, yeah. Of course, if you want to save that much, you got to save and boy, don't go out. So I brought home one thousand bucks. Yeah. Then I gave it to my folks to use it, then I, they said they're gonna stay in Rohwer. They stayed in Rohwer, then I went Japan.

TI: But I want to -- more questions about Seabrook. What kind of work did you do at Seabrook?

NM: Seabrook? There's all kind of jobs. They got all kinds of vegetables, and they freeze it, and then they put it in the vault. It's so big, Seabrook. It's got lot of farm, they got blueberries, some fruit, too, sometimes. What's that blueberry? I think they got lot of that, blueberry. And they got lima beans, lots of lima beans, yeah. And they got all kinds of nani, yeah. And I was just sorting, loading, doing a lot, and everybody's packing. All kinds of jobs. And then when we eat, they give you a free lunch. It's soup and sandwich. And then there's a little gate there, right between the cafeteria, okay? You know who was there? Prisoner of war. Germany, German people that was caught and captured, they're all there. Boy, they're all muscular guys. Gee. How can they lose the war? But they were there, prisoner.

JS: So they were there to work?

NM: They were prisoner, and then they worked at the...

JS: At the farm?

NM: Seabrook Farms. They do lot of farming and all that, too, just like us guys. So they were making some money, too, I think.

TI: So the prisoners of war, did they have guards watching them over there?

JS: They have their own guard, yeah. They have their own guard. And we eat side by side. [Laughs] Yeah, that happened. But they're all muscular people. I said, "How can they lose the war?" Muscular guys.

TI: And how long were you at Seabrook?

NM: Huh?

TI: How long were you at Seabrook?

NM: How was it?

TI: No, how long? How long did you stay at Seabrook?

NM: Oh, one year. Then my call came, so I had to report, then I was taken in right away, then I went to Camp Robinson, took my training there, then we trained. There was one Texas boy, tough guy, he's my bodyguard. [Laughs] He was a nice guy. We called him Tex Thompson, and by god, I want to meet him, but I don't know his address or nothing.

TI: Why did you need a bodyguard? This is Camp Robinson? Or when did you have this bodyguard?

NM: No, no, this is training already. I was in...


NM: Camp already, see. See, I took training at Camp Robinson, and then I got to know him, and we slept in the one shack, twelve guys. And then he said, "Nobody touches him or you're gonna answer me." He's a tough, husky guy, so I wasn't afraid.

JS: What was his name?

NM: Tex Thomson.

JS: Thomson.

NM: Yeah. Without a P, he said. That's what I remember. Tex Thomson without a P. [Laughs]

TI: So why did Tex do that for you? Why did he want to protect you?

NM: I don't know. We got together. When we go bivouac, we stayed overnight in the field, huh? I got half the tent, he's got the other half. So you got to sleep with me. [Laughs] That's why he was good to me. Yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Okay, so after training, after Camp Robinson, where did you go next?

NM: Camp Robinson? We were gonna go Europe. You know, we took our training, finished, we're all getting, packing, getting ready for going together. They went...

TI: Well, before you go there, so why didn't you go to the 442, like, Camp Shelby? Why were you sent to Camp Robinson?

NM: Went out to Snelling.

TI: Okay, but before, when you're basic training...

NM: Basic training, I took mine at Camp Robinson.

TI: So not with other Japanese Americans?

NM: No, no. This is regular training. And then, after we finished, we're all getting ready to go home first, then we're going to be shipped to Europe. They got ready, we got ready, all of a sudden, "Report to the main office." They called our name. All Japanese name. Oh, god, I know what happened now. I said, "I bet we're gonna go Minnesota," Japanese, 'cause they're all Nihonjin no name. They're calling, so we had to report. "Report to headquarters right now." And then we had to leave, and we were just supposed to go to nani. We went. All my friends are there, lot of friends. Fresno guys.

TI: This is at Camp Snelling in Minnesota?

NM: Camp Robinson.

TI: Oh, Camp Robinson, okay.

NM: Robinson. So we had to report to the headquarters, and there's about a hundred guys there. Said, "Fall out," call our names, and we go there, "you're going to Minnesota." We knew then, when they call all the Japanese, "I bet we're gonna be in the MIS." And sure enough, yeah. So we had to go to there.

TI: So did they give you any tests, like Japanese language tests?

NM: Huh?

TI: Did they test your Japanese language?

NM: No, they didn't test nothing, no. They figured we know Japanese already. So every time we come to a city, "Get in line, four abreast," and then march and go to, they took, we stopped for dinner, lunch and all that, they think we're a prisoner. [Laughs] They thought we were, you know. So we kind of feel funny, you know, us guys, walking around together, marching down. Then we go to eat and all that. But it wasn't bad. They didn't say nothing, nobody.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay, so we're going to start again, and I want to go to Minnesota.

NM: Minnesota.

TI: Minnesota, so tell me about Minnesota.

NM: Okay. As we went Minnesota, we stopped at certain places. We'd go eat, we fall in line, march certain places, and then a lot of people thought we were prisoners, I guess. But they found out, the way we walk and this and that. So we go back and then we kept going. Then, I knew the minute we, they called me, I knew, I think it's MIS, I thought. That's the only, why they called all Japanese. There was about four in my company, all four of us all went, yeah. And there was one fellow that I was really close to, George Kumagai. He lives out south, but he passed away, I heard. He's the only one that I knew, you know, and we met in Japan one day, the office where we were. I was going in, got a lieutenant, you know. "George Kumagai, where did you get the lieutenant?" He said, "Nori, why don't you re-up another year? You get this." He was a lieutenant. I said, "I had enough." I said, we're gonna get stripe, we didn't get it, we're gonna get two stripe, we didn't get it. I said, "We're not going to get nothing." I said, "No thanks, I got a job already." So I took a job.

TI: Okay, but let's go back to Minnesota. Tell me about the training. [Laughs] So tell me about the training.

NM: Training, okay, when we're first there, we went to the, what they called chicken farm. It's a shack, only about four or five get in there. And then there was a one belly stove there, you got to tend to it all the time, fire, you got to have somebody to do it for you. And sometimes you have to do that, too. You got to do not just your own, somebody else's, too. They called that chicken farm or something.

TI: I think it's "turkey farm."

NM: Turkey farm. Okay, you know more than I do. [Laughs] Turkey farm, yeah. That's what it was, yeah. We stayed there about a month. Said, "Where are we gonna go in there?" Okay, finally we got in Company H, okay, we got a good building. And sleeping quarters, nice building, that was more like it, yeah. Then we went to school. I was in E-9 or something. It was pretty high class. We were supposed to know quite a bit, yeah. Anyway...

TI: So when you were a kid, did you go to Japanese language school?

NM: Yeah, I went to Japanese school in Fresno. Only up to about sixth grade. Once I was in ninth grade, I play basketball at school, I can't get back.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Okay, so now, so you're back at training, and so you're in, what E-9, you said? The class. You were pretty high level Japanese class.

NM: Yeah, yeah. Well, anyway, we were in pretty high class. By god, that's hard, too. But I made it. But they said they're gonna give you a furlough, once you get in the... I tried out for basketball. And then they took me, and then I was training, and then went to Minnesota, university campus, they got the fieldhouse, what a big fieldhouse. They play football, they practice football, all inside there, football field. And they had a basketball court, too. Although the basketball team, I wasn't chosen yet. I was, we were just picked out. And then we went out to play Minnesota school, basketball team.

TI: So was this an army team?

NM: Yeah, this is army team.

TI: Was it all Japanese?

NM: All Japanese, yeah.

TI: Okay, so an all-Japanese MIS team.

NM: All Japanese students. They said we're going to a Japanese school with all Japanese.

TI: And you're playing against the Minnesota team?

NM: And then there's some hakujin, they got their special own class. They get lot of things easy. Us guys, we have a hard time. They get it, lieutenant, officer. Us guys, PFC, corporal, but I didn't even get that. So I'm a flunky. [Laughs] They didn't give us nothing. They said, "You'll get it when you enter school, and then when you graduate, and then when you get overseas," nothing. They didn't say one word. And then everybody scattered. Nobody know what's what.

TI: So the Japanese, they only got private or corporal, but if you were white, you got to be an officer.

NM: Well, we didn't even get the PFC.

TI: Okay.

NM: No... today. They said, "You'll get it when you go overseas, get it," you know. So would be corporal, everybody corporal by then. I didn't get nothing.

TI: So now tell me about that basketball game. So you went to play basketball?

NM: Oh, yeah. I went out for basketball practice, and then they took us to that practice field there, huge football player were all practicing there. This was December. Then basketball, too, played against our team there. So I took one ball away, dribbled up, boom. When I went up, boom. They're tall. I knew he was following me. I said, "What shall I do now? Shall I go this way or this way?" I was thinking. But I just go, shot. He blocked it. I knew he was gonna block. Big guy, anyway, you know. I was gonna be something tricky, jump, and then I was gonna go left hand, you know, but I didn't. Knocked it out. Anyway, I didn't make it. I got sick. I got a cold, so one week I stayed in the hospital. So basketball, no more. But then softball came out, softball, I played, we played against Wisconsin and so forth. Okay. And there was a Japanese restaurant there run by... who was it? Yoshikawa? Somebody from Fresno was running a restaurant there in town, in Minneapolis. So we went to the restaurant and eat there. I saw some friend of mine, yeah. So I was there about six months. We started, I think E-9 or something, section. E-9.

TI: And about what time, what year was this when you were in training? What year was this?

NM: Well, in training, we get called out, we got to fall out, and then we still march here and there. That's about it.

TI: But what was the date? What year, what date was it when you were training?

NM: '75, '76.

TI: No, not... you mean '46, 1946?

JS: '76? No. '76... we went into language school.

TI: Yeah, what year was it? 1944?

NM: No.

TI: Was it before the war ended?

NM: No, the war ended when I was training.

TI: Okay, that's what I wanted to establish. So the war had ended, so this was '45, '46.

NM: 1946.

TI: '46, okay. So you're really being trained to, for the occupation.

NM: Yes. 'Til about wintertime, I think.

JS: Can you tell us about your, Mr. Sameshima?

NM: Who?

JS: Sameshima. He was --

NM: Sameshima? Yeah, you know, Sameshima was my teacher. And then one of his brother was still a student, too. There was two Sameshima that I met. One was a teacher, and they were good, Japanese. My Japanese was up to sixth, seventh grade, but that was higher, E-2, I forgot now, E-9. George Kumagai was my friend, and we got stuck. We were in Tokyo, too. And then PFC rating is frozen right now, they'll give it to you when you enter school, we didn't get it. And then you'll get a corporal when you graduate. We didn't get it. Then overseas, you'll get it overseas. Then one day I saw George. George was, Kumagai was lieutenant.

TI: And you stayed a PFC?

NM: He told me, "Nori, once you re-up one more year, you get this rating." I said, "George, I got a job already, and I'm gonna get this, I'm going out. I got a job already, so I'm not going to change it." So I went to Yokohama and I worked in the post office.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: But before we go there, in Tokyo, what was your job in the army? What did you do?

NM: I worked in the mail office, APO-500, they called it post office, APO-500. That was in Yokohama.

TI: No, but before that, when you were in Tokyo, what did you do? Did you have a job in Tokyo?

NM: Oh, I was MIS. I got a job as a clerk there. I was getting all the mail. Yeah, that's right, I got the post office of ATIS, so I sorted the mail there. That's all I did, I didn't do any interpreting at all. So I went to the post office and pick up the mail, bring it in, put it in each guys'... package, and something come up, lipstick, sometimes the box, somebody send in lipsticks, all, it's not smashed, it's good yet, but it came out of there, you put it back in there, they get it broken. Not, the box is broken. And then we give it to them. Those people that get that, they're happy anyway, because nothing is taken, it's all in there.

TI: When you got to Japan, so 1946, when you got to Japan, what was Japan like? I mean, this is right after the war, can you describe what Japan looked like?

NM: You know, I didn't have a, I didn't know what Tokyo looked like. Never been there. We came in Japan, you can hear shamisen. You know, somebody's putting on the ship, we're on the ship. We hear the shamisen, somebody put it loud enough on the ship, we hear Japanese music, oh, we're near island now, Tokyo, and we're going into the bay, and then there's a ship sunk, half out in the bay. And we avoid that, go in, keep going in, and we landed in Yokohama. And then that's where we nani. Then I saw some GIs there, some girls there, fooling around. [Laughs] This is in Yokohama already. You know, at the pier, all some women and the GIs are all around there. We got off there, then checked in the Zama. And there we stayed about two weeks.

TI: And was this your first time in Japan?

NM: First time in Japan, I didn't know what to look forward to. I thought it must be hit by Japan, Japan hit by Americans. I heard that, you know, but when I saw Japan, we went to Zama, that's the recruiting for the jobs again, too, where they were going to send us. And then somebody get sent to Tokyo, some to Yokohama, some to maybe Sendai. So we stayed there two weeks, and each time, somebody going out. We didn't get our rating at all. You know, they... corporal, they didn't give to us. So I just let it go. Then I got a job already, I reported, I reported Yokohama post office. And I was working at post office, there was about ten Japanese girls, and then there's a... I talked Japanese there. They were surprised. They were so happy to hear somebody talk Japanese. [Laughs] I was pretty good. There was about ten girls there, see. It was the first time they hear Japanese talk. Then they were happy, anyway. Said, "This is the first time we saw a Nisei in a long time." I didn't stay there long. I stayed there about six months. Then I got another job in Tokyo, at PX, I went to PX. Then I got raise there, so forth. So I was pretty lucky to get Tokyo PX.

TI: And what was your, what was your job at the PX? What did you do?

NM: Oh, I was managing a certain floor. I was, say, second floor, okay, it's all Japanese. No, third floor, all Japanese. They come in and they sell their product, like, kimono, silk kimono, watch repair, shoe repair, barber shop. I was in charge of all that, yeah. Hiring Japanese, third floor. So I had a pretty good job. I stayed there 'til about '54, then I came back.

TI: In that time after the war, there was an active, like, black market, lot of people trying to get, like, American, like cigarettes and things like that.

NM: Yeah, there was a lot of black market.

TI: So can you talk about that? What was that like?

NM: Well, black market, there's nobody, you don't see nothing, but there's lot of black market going on. Even the PX merchandise you buy, cigarette, like that. Like me, I smoked. No, I don't smoke. So I got my two carton a week, I give it to my friends. Not give, but I sell it to my friends, and they'll just give me the yen. That's how I got my yen, yeah. But I'm not in the big black market.

TI: But just little things, like a couple cartons of cigarettes could --

NM: Well, one carton was one dollar. One carton. Today, it's about how much? Ten dollar? One carton. I think. Those days, a dollar and a quarter or something. And then there was a lot of... but PX, I work in PX, I could get anything I want. But when we go out, there's a watchman, too. So they could check me out if they want to. I don't want to get caught, and get sent home. So I just take my two carton limit, that's it. Then I take it to my friend's place, and he can do what he wants now. I don't smoke.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Now, how about your oldest brother? Did you see him when you were in Japan?

NM: No. When I went to Hiroshima, see, I was there 1946, July, end of July, I was in Tokyo. And then I was assigned in Tokyo Allied Office there. And then when I got out, I went to see my... I didn't get out yet, I was in the army yet. Because I got the train ride free all the way to Hiroshima, and then come back. I was in the army, yeah. I got my discharge about, maybe in February, I guess. And then I went to Yokohama. Anyway, when I went to Hiroshima, my oldest brother... I want to shoot a telegram to Japan, my brother's place, ojichan, uncle. And I had one of my friend, Japanese friend, write a letter. I tell 'em I'm coming to Hiroshima on certain day. It took me twenty-two hours. Twenty-two hours, all day ride, it's [inaudible], you know. And charcoal, you get dark. Anyway, when I went there, Hiroshima, big, the people, there's no station there. There's a wall there, but that was the station. They're not using that, 'cause they were bombed out, everything. Then I found out that that building was just blasted, and then they just had the wall, so they were gonna fix it. And today, they got it fixed real nice now. Oh, wow. Anyway, I went there, how do I see my ojichan? What does he look like? I was watching, and then here comes somebody with a long flag that says, "Masuda Matsunosuke." That's my uncle. [Laughs] He was there, and he looks just like my dad, so I couldn't miss him. Yeah, that's how it was. That was easy. 'Cause he came in, and then he took me back into his place. Half hour ride. You know how I had to go back? You know, it was three-wheel motorcycle? I got to stand in the back, ojichan's standing there, he's eighty-something, he was. He was there, and then I rode in the back, standing up, half-hour ride. It was scary, yeah. Anyway, I went to see the first time, and then when I saw that, oh, it was blasted. Hiroshima was really blasted. Nothing was there except that monument, we went there. Before that...

TI: But what happened to your brother? Where was your oldest brother?

NM: Oh, yeah, I asked my ojichan, "Kazuto genki?" And he said, he started crying and he said, "Oh, nakanatta." He got killed. He got sunk in some ship. He was on the sunk ship that got bombed out. So that was that. So that was ojichan, obachan, my brother's wife, and she had one kid, a girl. But I'm glad that girl is still alive, and she's the only one, Masuda, that I knew, my niece, now. And then my ojichan wanted me to marry... I tell him, "No, I can't marry anybody right now."

TI: Oh, so let me make sure I understand. So your uncle wanted you to marry your oldest brother's wife, because she was a widow?

NM: Yeah.

TI: And so he wanted you to marry her, so you could take care of her.

NM: He wants me to marry her, see, and carry on the Masuda. But she grew up, and she got three boys, and it's all well set now. By god, they were rich, too. We were poor.

TI: Oh, so your uncle was rich?

NM: Yeah, he has a lot of property. He got a big home, one big home here and another building here, another sleeping quarter right next to it, and he got a lot of rice property. He got about ten of them around there, ten parcels, you know.

TI: So did that, did that surprise you when you saw all of the land?

NM: Yeah, it surprised me. Gee, I had a rough time, my time. [Laughs] And I thought I'm gonna go to a poor house. Oh, he had a big house.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So tell me a little bit about Hiroshima. Because you were there just a year after the atomic bomb had fallen on Hiroshima. What did Hiroshima look like in 1946?

NM: When I went there, everything was flat, and the building was all wooden building, like the main street, Hondori, they called it, that was the main street. That was, I heard about it, Hondori, and there was some Fresno family called Ariye, had a fountain pen store on the main street. And there's another Fresno people named Kuwamoto that real close to me. I know the neighbors and all that. I went to, saw them, and there's two family that I knew right on that Hondori. And that was all blasted out. And then, but today, that Kuwamoto had a big women's clothing store, and he was doing real good, but I heard he passed away. All the Kuwamoto that went from Fresno, they moved to Hiroshima, they passed away now. Obachan, then the son. So I don't... but their son is living. And I know him now. So when I go there, I could talk to him yet.

TI: Now, when you talked with your uncle, what kind of discussions? Did you tell him about America and Fresno?

NM: You know, he's a real Japanese. He likes drinking. And then first thing he offered me was drink, but I told him I don't drink. "Dame da yo." [Laughs] You know how they are. You go there, someplace, and you get -- I think he makes his own sake with the rice. But he was eighty years old and he's farming yet. I don't know how he did it. Not with a horse, but with a cow. Was it a cow? I don't know. Anyway, it wasn't a horse. And then their kitchen, it was dirt. Then they got hanging little things, little fire, they cook something and this and that. And then the floor was dirt. But the other places, you got a nice home, you know, big home. But today, my brother's daughter, she's the only one. She was only about two or three years old when I first went there, and she used to run away from me, so I couldn't even talk to her. But today, she comes and goes. She can't, in fact, just three days ago, she called me. She calls me all the time.

TI: But I just realized, I just thought about this. So if you had married your brother's, your brother's widow, all that land would have become yours, right? I mean, you would have been...

NM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I married, it would have been mine. [Laughs] In fact, my father's place was another place, and then, you know, we told 'em we don't want it. "Nobody's going to be coming back there, so you keep it yourself." So she got it all. And he got another property here, he got five apartments built, and they're getting rental in, got his own house, he got a big one, and another house right there, but he don't get nothing him. 'Cause during the war, he just went in there. I don't know the rule. I told him, "Chase 'em out now." But they can't chase him out, he's been there so long, so you got to just let 'em stay there. And that's the mountain, it's right next door. And they're making a fortune there, carpenter.

TI: So that would have all been yours, so did you think about maybe staying and having all that land? So did you want that?

NM: Yeah, you can't chase 'em out.

TI: No, but did you think about maybe staying in Japan and taking over the family property?

NM: Yeah. Oh, god. It's a lot of property. They don't know themselves, achi naru, kochi no maru ite. But they're doing good. That daughter, she got three boys and then one girl. Three of 'em married now, then one more boy got to marry.

TI: So after you were done with the military, you decided to stay in Japan. Why did you want to stay in Japan and not come back?

NM: Who, me?

TI: You, yeah. Why did you want to stay in Japan?

NM: I don't want to go back to Japan.

TI: No, but when you were in Japan, you finished the army.

NM: Yeah.

TI: Why didn't you come back to the United States?

NM: I wanted to. I don't want to live in Japan.

TI: But why did you stay? You stayed there for, what, seven years?

NM: Well, I have a civil service job, that's why I stayed there.

TI: You had a what? A job?

NM: Civil service.

TI: Okay.

NM: I stayed there, and then I came back.

TI: Okay, so it was a job. You had a government, U.S. government job, civil service.

NM: Yeah. I want to come back. Because you can't drive a car in Japan. I don't want to drive in Japan. Boy, they're rough. I never thought of living in Japan.

TI: So what made you leave Japan? Why did you leave Japan?

NM: Well, I wanted to come back and settle in Fresno. I like Fresno. But I stayed single.

TI: Okay, so let's come back to Fresno. When you came back to Fresno, what did you do next?

JS: Tell Tom about your job, the civil service job.

NM: My job?

JS: Yeah, you managed a lot of people, right? You had an important job.

NM: What did I do in Fresno?

TI: No, no, before.

JS: No, in Japan.

TI: Your civil service job, what was your job, your civil service job in Japan?

NM: Oh, in Japan?

TI: Yeah, civil service, what was your job?

NM: What do you call that now? Post office. No. I think the exchange took it over. So I was still on the government deal, so I was getting paid by the APO-500 office.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

JS: Okay, so we want to talk about when you returned, when you returned to Fresno.

NM: When I was here in Fresno?

JS: After Japan.

NM: After Japan? I came home, my brother said, "Come to L.A.," I went to L.A., I went to school again a little bit, school like that, like photography, this and that, 'cause he's a photographer. So I learned that a little bit. But my dad passed away, so I went back to Fresno, I worked in Montgomery Ward. I repaired furniture. You know when the shipment come in, something broken, I kind of fix it. Top is scratched, I got to go over it, get that scratch out. Sometimes you got to do, everything real finished, refinish everything. You had to go down to the raw deal. Then Montgomery Ward was good. They were real good to me. I had the shop, I had the spray gun and everything. I didn't know how to use it at first, but there was one hakujin fellow that told me, "You can do it." These scratches, you got to go down to the level, then you got to do everything. So he told me all that. I got by. Then the upholstery, I had a little upholstery training in Fresno, I took a job one, about a half year, then I went to L.A. So that company that I worked for was furniture, the sofa, and then a single, all that, they made, and I watched them. And that's why I started repairing furniture. So Montgomery Ward, I thought I'd repair furniture, retouch this and that, then I learned a lot of things. The burning, the scratches, you know, you can't get it off, but certain way you can do it. Sometimes you got to do it real good. But I did that Montgomery Ward, so I was a furniture repairman.

JS: So your father had died. Your father died when you were in Los Angeles, and then you came back to take care of your mother?

NM: And then I went to Montgomery.

JS: I see, help with the family.

NM: And then I was working ten year, and then they said they're gonna close. Montgomery Ward gonna close up.

JS: So, Nori, can you remember when you first came back to Fresno, what was it like? You hadn't been back to Fresno for a long time.

NM: Well, I liked Fresno, so I got used to it right away. See, and then when I came back, we didn't have a house before. And then we had a hard time, when we came back, my folks, they found a place, renting, this and that, and then finally my neighbor named Murashima, he was a good friend of mine, he built houses, so he built a house for me. And then we stayed there, but I was in Japan yet. And then when I came back, the house was there, and then we stayed there about twenty years, then I bought another home in Fresno, a bigger home. The place I was was pretty bad, getting bad. So I moved out. My sisters, they all live in, two of 'em live in L.A. They said, "Move back to another place." So from where I was, I moved out, and I stayed there about forty-five years now. So my mother and I were, stayed, yeah.

JS: So the rest of your family went to Los Angeles, but just your mother and father were back in Fresno.

NM: Yeah. And then one sister lived in Sanger. She's the one that help me out now. When I want to go someplace, she, I call her. But I don't want to call 'em all the time. So, but they said, "No, that's okay. Call." But I don't call 'em all the time. I take the local bus, you know, free. See, like Monday, I went to bank, just go to bank, and I want to see my friend, Renge, I went to see them. So and then I got back. So I'm doing okay. The bus is free. [Laughs]

JS: When you came back to Fresno after Japan, and then you went back to the Buddhist church to help?

NM: Yeah, I go to Buddhist church.

JS: And when did you start to collect the photos and retain the history? You became interested in Fresno's history.

NM: You mean, the picture?

JS: Yeah.

NM: Well, I had interest in picture before, but my older brother, he gave me an enlarger, good enlarger, so I started making picture there. So I did quite a bit of that. That's why I got a lot of picture.

JS: I see. And then you became sort of like the community historian, everyone comes to you to learn about Fresno.

NM: Yeah, yeah. A lot of pictures, I got some old basketball team when I was kid. I learned basketball. I didn't know basketball at all until I was about seventh, eighth grader. So basketball, I started, I liked the basketball, I played for school.

JS: So what do you think, now, the Fresno church, they built a new building, right, and the church is moving?

NM: Yeah, our church is moving. Well...

JS: How do you feel about that?

NM: It's got to happen, anyway. So you got to do it sometime. I said I'm glad they did it now. I still like the old nani. I don't want it sold like that, but I think they need the money, so I think they might sell it. I don't know. But that's where I would go, and I played, all that. I'm gonna miss it. We had a nice playground there, too. It had swing and slides and all that, I remember. And then there was a softball diamond, tennis court, and all that. So that's where I played. That's where I learned how to drive, church's car. Church had a car, they left it there, and then we get a bunch of kids and they push it, we drive it, and then when we were old enough, when we were fourteen, I got my license. We used to take the reverend to Madera church and all that. So we helped him out a little bit, yeah.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

JS: So when you think back on your life, and you think about how special Fresno is to you, you wanted to come back to Fresno?

NM: Yeah.

JS: What is so special about Fresno?

NM: I like the weather.

JS: You like the weather? Uh-huh.

NM: Yeah. You know, it's not, like snow like that, you got to get this and that. I like Fresno. Snow, I could go out, but I don't care for skiing or anything. I don't want to break my leg. [Laughs] I tried skiing, but I'm afraid. I can't go down that hill. Oh, god, I'm scared. And when I was in the, Fort Snelling, they want you to learn how to ski, too. But god, I can't, I can't ski down that hill. I was afraid I would fall over, so I didn't go into it.

JS: When you see Chinatown now, today, and many of the businesses are gone and not there --

NM: It's sad now.

JS: It's sad.

NM: You know, right now, Fresno, the building comes down, nothing come up. And then they got to tear it down, because it's too dangerous. There's some more that's still up there, yeah.

JS: So when you think back all those years, different eras, Fresno, 'cause you saw a lot of change. 1910, you were on China Alley, 1920s, and then, yeah, moved to F Street and you were active...

NM: You know, I walked by there yesterday, or Monday, rather. I walked that, gee, Kamikawa store was here, and then Aki was there, that used to be our garage. I could tell you that today. You want to see the picture now?

JS: Yeah, well, so do you have anything else that you want to say before we end the video? What do you think about the future? What do you hope that people will remember about Fresno?

NM: You know, I don't think our Chinatown will come up again, yeah. I sure like to see it come up.

JS: Yeah, I hope they keep the Fresno Betsuin, it's a beautiful building.

NM: You know why? Because there's too many empty lots now. Tulare Street, the whole block, one block is gone. And then F Street and opening here, opening there, and then there are some old building yet. That will come down pretty soon. And when they come down... you know, the store that my folks had? That's still there. Solid yet. Maybe good for another twenty years. I don't think they want to move. I think they got Chinese club there. The store is right there, brick building. I used to go there, there was a walkway from the alley to the F Street. So we used to go to Kogetsu-do right away.

JS: Well, Kogetsu-do is still there.

NM: It's still there. They're the only ones now.

JS: Yeah. Well, I hope that the Fresno's Chinatown, there's some revitalization, and other stores will come. They said that the subway, or is it the subway?

TI: No, high speed rail.

JS: High speed rail is gonna come right to Fresno's Chinatown, so maybe more people will come.

NM: Too bad, Fresno, now.

JS: Thank you for sharing all of the history.

TI: Nori, thank you so much. Your stories were wonderful, thank you.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.