Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Kenji Maruko Interview
Narrator: Kenji Maruko
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mkenji-01

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: Okay. So today is March 9th, and we are in Fresno interviewing Kenji Maruko. And I'm Jill Shiraki, and Tom Ikeda is also co-interview, and Dana Hoshide is our cameraperson today. So can you state your name and tell us where and when you were born?

KM: Name is Kenji Maruko, born in Fresno, December 13, 1920.

JS: And can you tell us your parents' names, your father and mother?

KM: Parents' name, my father's name was Sanichi Uye Maruko, and my mother's name was Kou Nishimoto.

JS: And where were your parents from and when did they come to the United States?

KM: Father was born in Hawaii on a plantation, went back to Japan and got educated in Japan. Went through high school, and then he came to the United States, landed in San Francisco, and then came into Clovis and he was farming in Clovis. After three years, he sold the farm to another Japanese family, and then he purchased the cyclery in 1915.

JS: 1915.

KM: Uh-huh. And after he sold the ranch, he had three bad years. When he sold the ranch, the follow that bought it hit it big on the fourth year. And my dad had the bicycle shop back in 1915. And the bicycles at that time were the car version of the present day. So Mr. Araki, the Nichi Bei correspondent for Fresno area, he said that he bought the cyclery at the right time because it was the car version of today. But after the cars came out, naturally the bicycle business went down. And then my mom, she was born in Mukai nado in (Hiroshima), Japan, and she went through high school, and she married my dad, and she came to the United States in 1917 or '18. And that's when, of course, my dad had the shop already, so they lived in Fresno.

JS: So they knew each other in Japan?

KM: No, they didn't.

JS: No.

KM: Uh-huh.

JS: So it was an arranged...

KM: It was one of those "picture bride" things.

JS: "Picture brides."

KM: That back then it was "picture brides," yeah.

TI: But what's kind of interesting is your father was born in Hawaii.

KM: Yeah.

TI: So I guess that would make you Sansei.

KM: Sansei, uh-huh.

TI: So you're probably the oldest Sansei...

KM: Around, yeah.

TI: ...that I know of.

KM: Yeah, there was other Sanseis before me, too, but they're gone.

TI: And your father, did he speak English?

KM: Yeah. Oh, he had, he was perfect English. Because he went to English school in, night school, I think, it's in San Francisco. And also he took lessons here in town from an attorney's wife. And I forgot the wife, the attorney's name. Anyway, it'll come back. [Laughs] (Narr. note: The attorney's name was Mr. Paul Staniford.)

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

<Begin Segment 2>

JS: So can you describe the bicycle shop and what it was like and who the customers were?

KM: The customers were mostly Italian, because we lived close to an Italian district. And the bicycle, Dad used to tell me that some of the workers there was, farm laborers would ride their bicycles out to, towards Hanford, which was another 30 miles. They would ride out in the dark, go out there, and they would prune the vines. When it's dark, they'd drive, ride back, and they were paid dollar a day back then in 1915.

JS: And they're riding on, like, dirt roads?

KM: Dirt roads, they were on dirt roads, uh-huh. And they'd come in, a lot of 'em, they'd have a flat tire. And back then, they didn't have the tools to fix the flat tires. So my dad would stay open late and they'd come in, and the Italians would come in and they'd say, "Hey, Maruk," you know, Italian language. [Laughs] "Hey, Maruk," he'd say, "I got a flat tire. I got to go to work tomorrow, can I get it fixed?" [Laughs] He would charge them a dime or fifteen, no, fifteen cents for the brass plugs, and the rubber plugs were ten cents. But that was big money then. And the bicycles, the rims were made out of wood, and the tires, we had to glue it on, glue the tires onto the rims. And then if you didn't let the glue dry, the stem would bend, so you had to buy another tire.

TI: Now, so back then, was the bicycle a big advantage over, like, a horse? I mean, for what they were doing, it seemed like those dirt roads, a horse might be a little more reliable than a bicycle.

KM: Yeah, yeah, but a horse, you'd have to feed it, water it, clean it, all that. So they used the bicycle. A lot of places, they had asphalt already, so it wasn't the best asphalt back then, but they had asphalt. I remember in town they had asphalt, and guys would park their motorcycle, put their side stand down and they would get so hot in the summertime that the asphalt would melt, it'd get soft, and the motorcycle would lean over and fall down. It digs into the dirt, asphalt, that's why.

JS: So were there different types of bicycles for those that were riding long distances versus in the city?

KM: Yeah, back then it was a regular bicycle. They didn't have any racing bicycles, they didn't manufacture any back then, because the kids bring a racing. But if you wanted to race, you'd make your own racing bikes. But actually, there wasn't any racing. It was more basic transportation is what they were using bicycle for.

JS: So who worked at the bicycle shop?

KM: My dad and, I think it was it was in the picture, there's four or five, the big older photo had, I think he had five mechanics, that's how busy they were. I think there was another Japanese bicycle shop in town, too, the Kebo Cyclery on G Street.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: And what else did you sell besides the bicycle and the wheels?

KM: Oh, that's a good story, too, because these Italians would come into the shop, and they would ask my dad, "You got any BBs?" And my dad said, "What's BBs?" And he said, "Oh, we used the BBs to shoot the birds that were eating our wine grapes. So we want BBs." "Okay, next time salesman comes in, I'll order that." So he ordered BBs, then they wanted air rifle. So he ordered the air rifles, and they started selling. And then people come in looking for fishing equipment, fishing hooks and line and reels, rods, tackle, so he put those in. So at the, before the evacuation, oh, we had a variety of stuff selling besides the bicycle. Because the bicycle business, after, you know, when the cars came out, naturally it started dropping down. So he had to put in things that the people were asking for. Interesting. And, before the war, he would, being a citizen, he could purchase guns, pistol, ammunition, so he had all that in stock. And before the war, we had, I think, thirty cases of shotgun shells, and we had a big order of rifle and pistol ammunition, too. And when the war broke out, why, that was a contraband. So I said, "What are you gonna do with your contraband?" And one of our advertising agents from the Fresno Bee, he was in the U.S. Navy Intelligence. So he said, "Don't worry about it," he says, "I'll tell you when to turn it in. Because I worked in Intelligence and I know what's going on." So we didn't do anything, and first notice, second notice, about the third notice, he says, "It's about time, I think you'd better turn your stuff in or return it back to the wholesaler." Called the wholesaler, he says, "What do you got?" He says, "We got thirty cases of ammunition." Says, "Oh, wow, we can use that. There's going to be a shortage," so they took it all back. They took everything back.

TI: But that's interesting that, so he had a friend who was Naval Intelligence letting him know really when the real deadline was in terms of getting things in.

KM: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: Do you know how he got to know this Naval --

KM: He was with the advertising agency with, for the Fresno Bee. And he'd come into Dad's place and ask him what he wanted to run, what kind of specials he wanted to run. That's how come we knew him. And we didn't notice until the war broke out that he told us that he was Naval Intelligence.

TI: Do you think while he was coming into Japantown, he was observing the community also? Do you think he was kind of...

KM: He may have been, too, yeah.

TI: 'Cause was he friendly with other businesses, too?

KM: Oh, yeah. Yeah, because being advertising agent, why, he's around getting ads. Of course, we had a Fresno Fish Market there, and they did big advertising.

TI: Oh, that's interesting because yeah, it is, actually, when you think about it, a great cover for Intelligence to...

KM: Yeah, right, it is a great cover, yeah, it is.

TI: ...selling ads for -- I'm not saying that he was, but it's just interesting how he was a Naval Intelligence, and then also in advertising.

KM: Right, uh-huh.

TI: You wouldn't think that they would do that, that combination.

KM: Yeah. He was in Naval, but he was retired, and this advertising job was his real job.

TI: Yeah. But yet he stayed in touch, because he told your dad that he knew when...

KM: Yeah, right, uh-huh. He knew how it worked, the system worked. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, well, good. That was interesting.

KM: It is interesting, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

JS: So about... since your father spoke English, who were his other colleagues, you know, business?

KM: Oh, yeah. He spoke Japanese, too. He's good in Japanese, too. So, yeah, he was pretty active in the church, too. And he was active in the, maybe Kerry would know, because we had a, he had a baseball team, Fresno baseball team.

JS: He sponsored a team?

KM: Yeah, he sponsored a team, yeah, uh-huh. In fact, Kerry has one of my jerseys. It says "Maruko" on the front. [Laughs] We had a whole set of, you know, the cap, the jersey, the pants, the socks. We didn't have any shoes, but I don't I know where it went. We just had two jerseys, one went to the Museum, and the other one, Kerry has it, the traveling museum.

JS: So he sponsored the Fresno baseball team, local?

KM: Uh-huh, local baseball team.

JS: And then who did they play against? Were there --

KM: Yeah, there was...

JS: Several teams?

KM: Several Japanese teams.

JS: Uh-huh.

KM: Yeah, that's another story that Kerry knows all about. I think that was in Stockton. Every little Japanese town had a baseball team, I think, yeah.

JS: Did you play on the baseball team?

KM: No, too young then, yeah.

JS: Uh-huh.

KM: Must have been about ten, twelve years old. But these guys were from Hawaii, and they were big guys, yeah. One of the guys was six foot tall.

TI: What was the farthest they traveled to play?

KM: Gee, I don't know how far they went. We used to, they used to go to Stockton, I don't know how they got there, took a bus or rode the car or what. They played San Jose, and I don't know if they went into L.A. or not.

JS: And where were the home games? Did they host...

KM: Oh, they had a, they had a Japanese ballpark, bleachers and all up on the hill on California Street. So they had a baseball park.

JS: And what else, was your father active with, like, the Japanese Association, business association?

KM: No, not much. Japanese Association were right upstairs from the shop, but he wouldn't go up there unless it was necessary to go up there.

TI: In terms of the ownership of the building, did your father lease the building?

KM: We leased the building because it was the Bank of Italy building, and they had the main and we had the small section on the south side of the building. And then upstairs we had George Studio, George Nisho's optometry, and there's a Chinese dentistry, and the Inada (dentist), there's somebody... what was his name? He's a poet, his son is a poet, Inada.

TI: Oh, right, Lawson Inada.

JS: Lawson Inada, that's right, Lawson Inada.

TI: And so they all leased from the Bank of Italy?

KM: Yeah, from Bank of Italy.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: So what else do you remember about growing up in Chinatown?

KM: In Chinatown?

JS: What was that like?

KM: Saturday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, oh, god, you couldn't find a place to park, it was so busy and so many people around. And all the restaurants were busy, and they had several Chinese restaurants and they were busy. It was like the present Ferry Building in San Francisco, just like that on a Sunday. Just people all over the place. To find a place to park, you got to go around the block three or four times and still not find a parking space. That was really busy time, before the war and after the war, pop, it stopped.

JS: So you noticed a dramatic difference?

KM: Oh, yeah, uh-huh. And then, of course, we evacuated. So a lot of the Japanese restaurants in Chinatown, they were patronized by the packing houses, lot of packing house workers would come and they'd have their breakfast or lunch or dinner, and they'd go home. That's the way they were supported there.

JS: So who worked at the packing house?

KM: Oh, gee. Lot of Mexican people, Italian people, Armenian people. Lot of... I don't know. I don't think any of the Japanese people were working in the packing house. They were mostly farmers and ranchers, and their own vineyards.

JS: And where did you live? So the shop was on F Street.

KM: Shop was on F Street, and we, it was about two, about a mile from the shop, half a block from the Lincoln Elementary School, and we were in the, what they call Germantown, we lived in Germantown.

JS: So tell us about Lincoln Elementary School. What was that like?

KM: That was really integrated school, yeah. Lot of different nationalities, everybody got along together. Yeah, it was nice, yeah. But it was made out of brick, so they tore it down because of the earthquake fear. Fresno earthquake? [Laughs]

JS: So you went to school at Lincoln, and then what did you do after school? Did you go to a Japanese school?

KM: Oh, yeah, we had to go to Japanese school after class. And I think we went to Japanese school from 4:30 to 5:30 through grammar school and through high school. And during the junior high, I went to Edison, rode a bicycle, came home for lunch, enough time riding a bike, have a warm lunch, and then you go back to school. I think we had forty-five minutes, something like that, yeah.

JS: Did your friends ride bicycles, too?

KM: Oh, yeah, uh-huh.

JS: Everybody did?

KM: Oh, yeah, everybody, yeah. Better than eating a cold sandwich.

JS: And what activities did you do after school?

KM: After school, we had to come home and grab something to eat, and then we had to go to Japanese school right after that. So we got out about three-thirty at school and then run home. About an hour, about four-thirty, we'd go back to Japanese school and stayed an hour in Japanese school and then came home. Then we had to do homework. [Laughs]

JS: So were most of the friends that you hung out with Japanese?

KM: Mostly Japanese, yeah. And, of course, there were a lot of German people around, too, paling around with them. And then our neighbor was the Helmuth, and they had Bill and Alex, and Alex worked for PG&E, and they had three girls, and they stayed home. And then the neighbor north of that was, his name was Harry Hyde. And his nephew became mayor of Fresno. Yeah, he was a classmate of mine, too, when I went to Fresno High, and then he went to Congress.

TI: Now, were these German families, were they immigrant families?

KM: Yeah.

TI: So the kids were like Niseis, or kind of...

KM: Yeah, right, they were Niseis, too, yeah. But mostly, they call 'em German, but they were Russian Germans. They went, they got sent to Russian and Russia, they came to United States. Hardworking families, oh, wow, hard to keep up with 'em.

TI: Hard, more hardworking than Japanese, you would say?

KM: Yeah, because wow, you go by their house and their front sidewalk is clean. They use a brush to sweep it with, all the gardens are pretty, wow, it's hard to keep up. Then I was the one that had to do all the hard work outside in the garden, mow the lawn.

JS: Oh, because you lived in Germantown, you had to keep your property up?

KM: Uh-huh. Oh, yeah, those Germans, boy, they were something else.

JS: So your, did your mother work at the store, too, or she stayed home later?

KM: Later on, when we all grew up, yeah. My mom says, "No, we don't want to stay in Chinatown. It's a ghetto," she says. And she says, "We're in the United States, we should mingle with the hakujins." So she found this house on C Street, so we moved over there. She was kind of a forward-thinking woman. "We got to live here, we got to act like it."

JS: So was she friendly with the German neighbors?

KM: Oh, yeah, she was, really.

JS: Uh-huh. So did you... I've heard other stories where people have recipes from their neighbors as part of...

KM: Uh-huh.

JS: Did you have any German dishes?

KM: Oh, yeah, uh-huh. We would go to the next-door Germans, they'd have a, kids would have a birthday party, we'd go to that, and we'd have a birthday party, we'd invite them. So we were real friendly.

TI: Now, was that pretty common for Japanese families to be so close to a German family? So that birthday parties...

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So that was pretty common.

KM: It was pretty common, yeah. Discrimination, you didn't see it. You didn't see it. In fact, my sister would kind of intermingle. Many times something happened, my sister would be invited with the girls, neighbor girls. Her picture even appeared in the Fresno Bee, one of those Sunday periodicals, Japanese kids' team, and all the German kids. Discrimination, Fresno, you didn't see too much of it.

JS: But were you one of the few Japanese families living in that neighborhood?

KM: Yeah, we were, uh-huh.

JS: Right outside of Chinatown?

KM: Uh-huh. It was a fun place.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

JS: What other activities... oh, you were talking about Boy Scouts. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

KM: Oh, Boy Scouts, oh, yeah. Troop 13 headquarters was in the Christian church. Buddhist church didn't have any Boy Scouts things, I don't know why. And oh, I used to ride my bicycle to the meetings. And, of course, we had to go through all the merit badges, we had to go on a fourteen-mile hike. We went to Kearney Park, it's seven miles up and seven miles back. And we didn't have any water. Nowadays, you have bottled water, there was no bottled water then. So we walked without any water all the way up, all the way back. Of course, Kearney Park was nice because it had palm trees and all kinds of trees, and a lot of shade. But it was a long walk, long, dry walk.

JS: And who was your troop leader?

KM: My troop leader was Mr. Frank Farrar, manager of Safeway in Fresno. And I remember one time we went to one of the scout gatherings, and we had to come home back to the church, and there was just one car, his car. And we piled in, thirteen kids in that car. [Laughs] No safety law back then, so thirteen kids really crowded in.

TI: And he drove you home?

KM: No, he drove us back to the church.

TI: Oh, back to the church, I see.

KM: Which wasn't very far, yeah. About a mile. Better than walking, so... Friday, either the first or the last Friday of the month, he'd bring us hot dogs, bought wieners and buns and all the goodies.

TI: So you mentioned that the troop was headquartered out of the Christian church?

KM: At the Christian, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And earlier you mentioned your father was involved with the church. Was it the same church?

KM: No. No, my father was involved at the Fresno Betsuin.

TI: Okay, so the Buddhist church.

KM: Fresno Buddhist church, yeah.

TI: And when you say "involved," what kind of activities did he do at the Betsuin?

KM: Oh, the Betsuin, wow, that was working... well, the one I remember was the Kishikusha, which is the building next to the church, they had students from Japan come to study in Fresno State. And they would stay at the Kishikusha on the third floor. And in front of the tennis court, there was a white building, and that's where they had their classes for English. So after they'd go to stay, well, they'd come back and study their English. And these young Japanese kids from Japan, when they had the leisure time, why, they had a lot of Chinese lottery in Chinatown. And some of the Fujinkai ladies seeing some of the young men going to the lottery places. The Chinese lottery, they had a front, they'd have a business in the front, and the gambling was done in the back room. And then, of course, they had runners to go to all the different restaurants and stores, then they'd have their drawing at a certain time. So some of the Fujinkai ladies observed some of the men, young men going to the lottery places. So they got concerned, so they told my mom about it, and my mom told my dad, my dad says, "Uh-oh, this doesn't sound good." So he went to see the reverend of the church, and he says, "What can we do about this? We don't want the young men to go to the gambling joints, and then when they go back to Japan and the parents would ask 'em, 'What did you learn in the United States?' 'Oh, we learned how to gamble.'" [Laughs] So my father said, "No, that's really not good reputation for the church, and also not good for the young men." So they started a young men's, kind of a Buddhist study class, and they called it the Byakudokai. And that was sixty-five years ago. The sensei formed it and got the young people together and they have... of course, they have religious lessons every night after school.

JS: So these Japanese that came to study, then they would return to Japan, or did they...

KM: Yeah. Well, yeah, most of 'em returned to Japan.

JS: So they came for a short period of time and returned?

KM: Right, right. I remember my dad was telling me that there was one fellow that came to the store and he used Dad's typewriter. He was going to Fresno State and make his reports all on the typewriter, and he used Pop's typewriters. Then he graduated Fresno State, went back to Japan, went back to Hiroshima, and then he ran for Senate, and he became a senator in the Diet. So he was there quite a while. And after the war, my grandpa in Japan had three, three different plots of property. Of course, he passed away in '37, so it was, my dad had the control of it. So he wrote the senator and told him to save whatever he can. And he saved the one that the family lived on. And he went back in '38... no... yeah, '38, he went back to Japan when Grandpa passed away, and he went to Tokyo to meet the senator and asked him, "What happened?" He says, "Yeah, I saved your plot, your family plot." He said, "Do not touch." So he saved the property. It was something that really paid off. You know, back then, if you didn't farm the land, they took it away from you. And the people that was farming the land, that was MacArthurs, they met the family that was farming the land, they got the land. That was after the war.

TI: Oh, interesting. So it was like squatter's rights, almost.

KM: Yeah, something like that, yeah, uh-huh.

JS: So did your father go back to Japan often?

KM: No, no, uh-uh. I think that's the only time he went back to Japan. Yeah, he had a business and had to raise a family, that's why he couldn't go back.

JS: So where was, for the cyclery, all the goods and supplies? That was all American suppliers?

KM: Oh, yeah, the suppliers? Oh, yeah, uh-huh. Except... no, Japan wasn't into the bicycle trade like it was.

JS: Not then?

KM: Yeah, before. Before the war? Yeah, before the war they were selling a lot of Japanese, made-in-Japan bicycles to the chain stores here in town.

JS: Oh, they started to?

KM: Yeah, uh-huh, they did. Yeah, they were cheap, too, just like China was doing now. Could buy a bicycle for $29.95.

JS: What kind of bikes did you sell at the store?

KM: We sold Schwinns and Columbia, the name brands.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Yeah, you talked about your father, his ability to speak English and Japanese. Was that common for his generation?

KM: No. Because most of the men that came over just spoke Japanese.

TI: And so did that give your father, like, a different role in the community because of his ability to speak English? Was he ever called in because of his ability to speak English?

KM: No, actually, they didn't call him because they had the Japanese Association, and a lot of 'em went, we could see a lot of people going upstairs to the Japanese Association. And then, of course, the older Niseis were coming in to the picture about that time, too, yeah.

TI: Okay, so they would take care of the spokesperson.

KM: Yeah, right. We got back in before the war, '40, '41. Yeah, the kids had been, the older ones, especially, they were in their twenty, twenty-one already, so legalized, so they could take over anything they wanted then.

JS: The other day you were talking about S.G. Sakamoto?

KM: Yeah.

JS: Can you tell us a little bit about him and his role in Chinatown?

KM: He was the community leader of Chinatown, actually, and he was an insurance agent, and he had an office in, I think, on E Street. And he would... through most of the things that the Chamber of Commerce would be doing, and he was pretty active. And then he opened up a feed store on Ventura, and he was busy there. And he had two daughters, they both owned beauty shops. And when the war broke out, why, for goodwill, I think it was goodwill from the Japanese citizens, he went around and collected money for an ambulance, and we donated an ambulance, care of the Japanese community, to the city.

JS: And what year was that, approximately?

KM: Yeah, about, right after the war.

JS: After the war?

KM: Or... no.

JS: Right before the war.

KM: Right before the war.

JS: Oh, like 1940, '41?

KM: '40, '41, yeah.

JS: Wow. Were there other leaders? He was the main...

KM: He was more the main...

JS: Unofficial mayor of Chinatown?

KM: Official mayor of Chinatown, yeah. [Laughs] Yeah, he was kind of the leader at that time before the war. That and, of course, the church. The church had a lot to do with it, too.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Earlier, you talked about how the town would come alive on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

KM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So who was coming in during that time?

KM: Well, I think, just like everybody else, it was what you could do on the weekends. So they'd all come in to town. Yeah, a lot of the laborers, they worked all weekend, and on Saturdays or Friday night, they'd all come. People from Mendota and a lot of farm country. Lot of Mexican families used to come in there.

TI: And so when that happened, like weekends, did your parents give you any warnings? Were there instructions for you to be careful or anything like that?

KM: No, nothing, no. We didn't get any warning. We weren't afraid of anything.

TI: Because I'm just guessing, based on what you described, I mean, there was probably drinking...

KM: Oh, a lot of drinking, yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And thing like that happening.

KM: Right, uh-huh. Yeah, I remember the Indians coming into town and getting drunk. The police, they were ruthless. They billy-clubbed them and called the wagon and threw 'em in the wagon. Yeah, it was, it was something, something to see, the way they beat the guys up. You do that now, it's a no-no. But back then, everything was open.

TI: And so it was common to see police officers in Chinatown...

KM: Oh, yeah. They're walking around, yeah, drive around in cars.

TI: Well, so if the police were in Chinatown, you talked about earlier the gambling that would happen.

KM: [Laughs] Yeah.

TI: So how did the police deal with the gambling?

KM: The gambling? They got paid off. [Laughs] I've seen cops go into... yeah, a liquor store, and they'd walk out with a box of cigars or two bottles of whiskey or something like that. Or a cigarette, carton of cigarette. Or they'd go to a Chinese restaurant, get coffee and doughnuts free. Ah, they were really paid off.

TI: So within the Fresno, sort of, city, was Chinatown kind of the area for lots of gambling and drinking and things like that, or was it common throughout the city?

KM: Yeah, the drinking was all over the city. They had bars all over. But being in Chinatown, you see all of this stuff going on. And I don't know if they had that ordinance on gambling or not, but evidently they didn't, because it was pretty wide open. Yeah, the guys got runners and they'd come, you'd be sitting in a restaurant and the runner would come and go to the proprietor or waiter or waitress and collect. That wasn't too bad, twenty cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, something like that. And then they'll say, "Oh, we're gonna have a drawing at two o'clock in the afternoon." So they come back at two o'clock, and either you'd bet some more, or you get paid off.

TI: And when the betting that's, like ten cents, twenty-five, fifty cents, if they won the numbers, I mean, how much would someone win?

KM: That I don't know. I don't know how much they won. It must have been pretty good because... I didn't play it, so I don't know. Too young to be playing that kind of stuff.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: When we were just talking before the interview started, you mentioned how, I mean, you didn't know at the time, but later on, they talked about finding tunnels in Chinatown.

KM: Yeah, Chinatown, uh-huh.

TI: Can you describe a little bit of what they found and what they were used for?

KM: They found? Yeah. They found little cubbyholes, and they figured that was for the opium den. And then, of course, they had places to live, too, people that didn't have place to live, they lived down there. And it was pretty elaborate because the walls were made out of brick, and to keep the thing from falling in on 'em, the fellows. And a lot of times there's a hotel on top and stuff. So they had to have some kind of foundation. I'd like to go down there one of these days. I hear stories.

TI: And these were, the tunnels were associated with the Chinese, sort of, establishments?

KM: Yeah, they are. They have doors into the different establishments. Of course, they got locks in 'em, you can't go into 'em. But the Chinese had a passageway, they just went right into the tunnel. Wish I was down there, maybe I could explain more what's down there.

TI: And as far as you knew, most people didn't know about these tunnels?

KM: Oh, no, nobody knew about that. Talking to the historian at the county, city, and they said they were working on that road project on Tulare between F and G Street, and the road collapsed. And they said, "What the heck are we gonna do? There's a tunnel under there. It's collapsed." Says, "Cover it up." Cover it up and put the pavement on top. So that's what they did. So the tunnel even extended even as far as the courthouse.

TI: So it was going under streets, it was an elaborate sort of...

KM: Kind of elaborate in a way, yeah. And you figured, been done by Chinese, were they engineers or what? Because hey, you go right underneath a ten-story hotel or building. You have to have something strong under there. I'd like to go in there.

TI: Yeah, I would, too. And so earlier you mentioned your relationship with the Germans, and it seemed it was pretty close. Were there similar kind of relationships with the Chinese?

KM: Oh, yeah. The Chinese, we, I don't know. With the young generation, yeah, we were pretty friendly with each other. We'd see some of these Chinese from China or the older Chinese, we kind of looked down on 'em because the Issei, like I was telling you about, the imperial soldier with Ito Dry Goods, why, they used to say bad things about the Chinese because the war was going on in '37. There was a little discrimination there, yeah. Kind of looked down on the Chinese. When you think about it, by god, you're equal, because the Chinese built the railroads all over the west.

TI: So tell me a little bit more about this imperial soldier. So a Japanese soldier who ran a dry goods store?

KM: Yeah, he ran a dry goods store.

TI: So what was his name, and tell me a little bit about him.

KM: Gee, his name, last name is Ito, I-T-O, but his first name, I don't remember. Yeah, he was a well-built guy, strong, and made us collect tinfoil, and what else? Oh, when the Fresno city quit using their trolleys, they had the trolley tracks, steel trolley track? They dug those all out and Japan bought all those, all the steel.

TI: So did Mr. Ito help with that?

KM: No, I don't know if he did or not. I don't think so. That was done between the government and the city.

TI: But Mr. Ito was proud of being Japanese, he would collect things? Tinfoil and send it to Japan.

KM: Uh-huh. He was kind of an unusual guy, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Did your parents ever talk to you about being Nihonjin or Japanese and what that meant to you or to them?

KM: Oh, they kind of left it... at home, we didn't, not much. But they kind of left it up to the schools to teach us about Japanese culture and all that.

TI: 'Cause it sounded like your parents were really forward-thinking, so they wanted you to do things with the white population and different things. But I'm also curious how they... because I know your dad also took the time to start this program at the Buddhist church for the Japanese. So I'm curious what he told you about being Japanese, or what he wanted you to think about being Japanese.

KM: [Laughs] Actually, they didn't say much. We just... I guess we observed it daily, so we didn't even notice it. Then they speak, between them, they'd be speaking Japanese just like any other Japanese family. And then among us kids, we'd be talking to our parents, we'd talk in English. And my mother would say, "Yeah, I'd talk back to you in English, but if I do that," she said, "you'd forget your Japanese." So she'd speak to us in Japanese all the time. And when she went out to meet her hakujin friends, why, she would speak to them in English, converse with them.

TI: So that says a lot, huh? That she wanted you to speak Japanese?

KM: Right, right. She said, "If you don't speak it, you're gonna lose it."

TI: Now how about personality-wise? I mean, you have the benefit of actually having your parents speak English, so you probably communicated with them more than the other people your age with their parents. What was your father and mother like?

KM: [Laughs] They were easygoing, yeah. And they were both easy to talk to, and a lot of... the mother, especially, she was the one that brought up the kids. So she'd kind of give us advice and tell us which way to go, which is right, which is wrong. But a lot of times, we'd hear what she had heard at either the church or Fujinkai, or her meetings with the other people. So she'd convey it that way.

TI: Did you ever hear them talk about their, maybe their dreams or kind of what their hopes were for the family and for them?

KM: No, they didn't say much. But you know, all the Isseis, they always talked about education, now, and they wanted you to get ahead. So they wanted you go to through education. Yeah, but between the Japanese race, well, they're two competing, always competing with each other.

TI: I mean, within the Japanese?

KM: Within the Japanese community, yeah.

TI: What would be an example of that in terms of, inside the community, that they would compete?

KM: I think they all competed together, business-wise and, of course, family-wise.

TI: Well, for example, your bike shop. You mentioned there was another Japanese bike shop. So were you always aware of them and what they were doing?

KM: No, actually, we weren't. Because they were a block over, two blocks over. They were on G Street, and we were on F Street. So we didn't even know they were there. It didn't bother us. Maybe because of the location, that we had more hakujin customers. It's hard to say. And we were busy, gee.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So, Kenji, we're going to start the second part, and I'll be the primary, so we can just chat. I'm going to start with the war years. And so the first question is, December 7, 1941, do you remember that day?

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So why don't you tell me what happened on that day for you.

KM: That day, being a Sunday, we were busy in the shop. And it was about one o'clock, and I was up in the front and my dad was in the back, and the news broke in that Pearl Harbor's been bombed. It wasn't official yet, but that's the news we got, and we'd keep up with the news. Then about half an hour later, another broadcast, it's been bombed, and they were in the process of fighting back. So I went back and told my dad, "Hey, Pearl Harbor's been bombed." He said, "No, it couldn't be." So he came up to the front, listened to the radio, and sure enough, it was... so he had a shortwave radio in the same set, so he turned it, and being in the daytime, he couldn't pick up Japan. So he quit giving that, "Now what's going to happen to us?" being Japanese and how all the Americans, hakujins going to treat us? Actually, nothing happened. Nothing happened. The next day, nothing happened. Going to school, why, you just walked to school like nothing happened.

TI: And so, because you mentioned earlier you had a lot of white customers. So that didn't change?

KM: That didn't change, no. To us it didn't change. Lot of 'em even told us, "How come you're getting evacuated? You were born the same time I was." Says, "How come you have to go?" Says, "Well, that's the law, we have to go."

TI: Well, what's interesting, too, is many of your dad's customers were Italian, and you lived in Germantown, so you had a lot of people who were speaking German. And so the United States was at war with Italy and Germany also.

KM: Yeah, right.

TI: So it seemed a little, yeah, I could see there was some confusion why the Japanese were being singled out.

KM: Yeah, yeah. We were singled out, yeah.

TI: Did you ever have conversations with any Italians or Germans about this?

KM: Yeah. In fact, Fulton Street used to be the main drag in town, so after school, I'd be Japanese, gal in the middle would be Italian, and the guy on the end would be a German. Walked down the street and nothing happens. [Laughs] Three musketeers. The Axis power, you get the three, the young three kids.

TI: And so when you walked down like that, were you aware that you, in some ways, ethnically represented the Axis powers? Did you guys...

KM: Well, yeah. I guess they would just picture me because it's Japanese. But the other two, you couldn't tell. They mingled with the whites. Actually, you couldn't tell if they were Italians or Germans or what.

TI: Did you ever talk amongst yourselves, with a German or Italian about whether or not things were happening in their community? Like the FBI, did any of the community leaders in the Italian or German community...

KM: Nothing. Nothing happened to them. They were just treated like white Americans. There was nobody I heard, didn't hear of anybody getting arrested or anything. It was just, just normal for them. That's why they were asking, "How come you got to go?"

TI: Yeah, no, that's... and what did you say?

KM: I said, well, I could say that, because of our features and all that. But, of course, our names were hard to pronounce, and we had slant eyes, and we wore glasses, and we had buck teeth. The propaganda was all of that. So we just got singled out, that's all.

TI: And so when this was happening, when you were singled out, how did that make you feel? Because, I mean, you had German and Italian friends.

KM: Uh-huh, right.

TI: And their countries were doing the same thing. In fact, the United States was at war with them. How did you, did you think that just because you did look different, that was why, and that was okay? Or what were you thinking?

KM: God, the thinking was, wow, we're classified as the enemy because even being a Nisei and Sansei, and father being born in this country and not being treated like an American should be treated, kind of hurt me. And so I says, well, it's just one of those things, you just have to fight with 'em, and fight for your cause as a citizen.

TI: And how, how aware were you of just sort of racism in general? Like in Fresno, were there certain places where Japanese could not go because they weren't white?

KM: No. No, we went anyplace where we wanted to. We might have heard certain places not to go, so we wouldn't go there because probably was a redneck community anyway, if you went there, it's kind of scary to be in there. So stay away from there. But regular places we went to, why, nothing happened.

TI: How about, like, anything like if there was like a fine restaurant or hotel, would those be available to you?

KM: They were available, but in a way, you could feel the discrimination. But they accepted. Some places, I don't think... in Fresno, I don't think there was any incidents of being refused.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so now I want to go back to your father. So we talked about how he heard it on the radio, he tried to listen more on the shortwave radio, wasn't sure what was going to happen. Did you, did you hear him talk about the war and what he thought about it during this time? This was in those early...

KM: Earlier, earlier before, uh-huh. Yeah, because he was saying... he didn't say anything about fighting the U.S., but he says, "Look out, it's gonna spread." Of course, when Roosevelt put on that embargo where we couldn't buy oil or rubber, that's when Japan said, "Well, we're going to get it then. We're going to go get the rubber in Borneo and Southeast Asia, and also there's oil down there, too, we'll get that." So if they had, didn't enforce the embargo, I think this wouldn't have happened. But that's what it was, just... we'll that's the same thing that's going on, they put embargo on Iran.

TI: So in the bike shop, when the mechanics, you're all working on bikes, an so you're... are people kind of talking about things like that?

KM: No. No, they're doing their own job. There was no talk about that. Completely a surprise. Actually, December 7th was a complete surprise.

TI: Now, at this point, you were about twenty-one?

KM: About twenty, twenty-one, yeah.

TI: Twenty, twenty-one. So you were, were you done with school, or were you going to school at this time?

KM: I was still going to school, yeah.

TI: So where were you going to school at this...

KM: I think I was going to business college then, yeah. Nothing was said, either.

TI: So no one said anything to you?

KM: No. Nobody came up to me and called me a dirty name or anything like that.

TI: Were you kind of expecting something to happen, maybe?

KM: Always expecting something. Expecting to be beat up or gang involvement, three or four guys jumping you. But nothing happened.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Now, how about your siblings? You have... I want to kind of go through. I mean, how many -- I'm sorry, here it is. So can you just go through in terms of your siblings, so we establish that? So who was the oldest?

KM: Mikiye. Mikiye was the oldest.

TI: And then you were...

KM: Second.

TI: Second. How much younger were you?

KM: Two years.

TI: Two years. And then after you was...

KM: Sachi, which is two years, too.

TI: And then after Sachi was?

KM: Shuji was two years.

TI: And after Shuji was?

KM: Eichi.

TI: Eichi. And that's eleven years. Between...

KM: Between myself and Eichi.

TI: Okay. So there were five children?

KM: Five children, right.

TI: And your mother and father. Any stories about them and how, like, before the war or during this time that kind of stands out for you in terms of your...

KM: Oh, the one that... Shuji's the one that, he was a yancha bouzu, you know.

TI: I'm sorry, he was a what?

KM: Yancha bouzu, the one that got into everything. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so he was kind of the trouble...

KM: Well, troublemaker but a fun-maker, too.

TI: Fun-maker?

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: Like what would be an example of...

KM: Example was, when he was young, we had a wind-up toy that you pushed, and it would crank up the spring in the wheel. And then you let it go and it'd take off, you pushed it, got the spring wound up, and put it on my brother, younger brother's hair, and it got his hair all caught up in it.

TI: Oh, so it got all tangled up. [Laughs]

KM: Yeah. And another time, when he was going to high school, he went into a Thrifty Drugstore, and nobody waited on him. So he went to the clock department, every clock he had there, he wound it up and set it at the same time, and set the alarm, and he walked out of the store. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] So that at one time, all them would start the alarm.

KM: All the things went off. [Laughs]

TI: That's funny.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So talk about the weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and what did your family do during that time period? Because at some point, you found out that you were gonna have to leave Fresno.

KM: Yeah.

TI: So what did you with the business?

KM: The business, well, of course, we had to sell out, so we had to reduce everything and sell everything. And people would come in and they'd look, or a lot of 'em bought because of the price. It was cheaper than wholesale. And actually, we got rid of a lot of old stock, and whatever, we kept what we stored. So it wasn't scary, it wasn't scary at all. We thought we'd be firebombed or robbed or anything like that, nothing happened. Fresno, when it calmed down, it was really... it's because of the integration of all the races, that's why.

TI: And so who, where did you store some of your things? You said you stored...

KM: We stored it at Kerry Nakagawa's grandmother's restaurant on E Street.

TI: I see, okay.

JS: Matsunozushi.

KM: Huh?

JS: Matsunozushi.

KM: Matsunozushi, yeah.

TI: And that's the one by the Buddhist church?

KM: Yeah, by the Buddhist church, right.

TI: Okay. So you stored it there, and then what happened to the building itself? You just kind of walked away from the lease, I guess?

KM: Oh, our building where we were? Yeah, walked away, because, yeah, we had to because of the bank. We were there how many years? 1915 to '41, geez.

TI: Yeah, you just have to give it up.

KM: That's a long time, yeah.

TI: We talked about it earlier, so nothing, it sounded like nothing really bad happened to your family. Do you recall any, maybe, acts of kindness from a non-Japanese during this time period?

KM: No, not really, just the neighbors. They even, yeah, they even wondered why we had to go. But other than that, no.

TI: Yeah, because your mother had these friends who were non-Japanese, your white friends, do you recall any of them trying to help her of the family?

KM: No, not really. They kind of left us alone, yeah. Yeah, thinking about the neighborhood, and no, actually, nothing happened really. Maybe somebody, maybe the neighbors, couple neighbors over, the Diel family, they're the ones, daughter there, that she was real friendly with, maybe she came over. I didn't hear anything about that either myself.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay. So when you're ready to leave, which assembly center did you...

KM: We went to Fresno Assembly Center. We were kind of the last ones to go. And oh, yeah, our family and the Suda family, they lived on D Street, and we put all our belongings on... a Mexican driver was there, I guess, he owned a farm or something, and we put everything on his truck and we went to the assembly center. And we had a bicycle that my brother had, youngest brother. So says, "What shall we do with that?" "Oh, take it along." So we took that to the assembly center, it passed, and my dad had a bicycle in the assembly center. Only one that had a bicycle.

TI: Interesting. And so what's interesting is, so, to go from your home to the assembly center, they had a truck that actually took you there?

KM: No, we had to hire a truck to take us there.

TI: Oh, that's... so otherwise, how did the other families get there?

KM: I guess they had their own... if it's a farm, they had their own trucks, so they must have bought the, just put the thing on their own truck and brought it over. But we had this, I think the Tsuda family's friend was one of the guys, the Mexican fellow that took us there. So I guess they were, arranged it.

TI: Okay. So the government kind of left it up to you to get your family to the assembly center.

KM: Uh-huh, yeah. That's right. The government did... yeah, they didn't help us a bit, yeah.

TI: And so when you got there with the truck, what was it like? Were there government officials waiting for you at the...

KM: At the entrance of the gate? Yeah, I don't quite remember that, but anyway, we just walked in there, drove in there, and give us our name, and they gave us our room number, block number. And so we just went to the place, went to the barrack and there it was. It was four beds, five beds? I don't know, six beds. Oh, yeah, six beds.

TI: And during this time, did you hear your mother or father say anything about what was happening, and did they talk to the children about what was happening?

KM: No, uh-uh. They didn't say anything. Only thing I heard was "shikata ga nai," you know.

TI: And how about their demeanor? How would you describe how they were with all this, as they were leaving their house?

KM: No, they didn't feel bad. It was one of the things that happens in life. So they just took it as a grain of salt. It was an experience that no other race went through.

TI: That's what I was wondering. Because you were talking about how your parents were forward-thinking, and that it was important for Japanese to mingle with other races and everything, and now, they've been singled out for being Japanese, and I was just... if they felt like they were betrayed or something by that.

KM: No, they weren't. That word, Japanese word, "haiseki," the discrimination, yeah. They just took it as a grain of salt, part of life.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So let's talk about memories of the Fresno Assembly Center. So when you're there, what kind of activities were you involved with? Did you have, like a job?

KM: I had a job, yeah.

TI: Okay, what was that?

KM: I was in the motor pool with all the trucks. I didn't get a chance to go to Pinedale, Pinedale Assembly Center.

TI: Now, why would you want to go to Pinedale?

KM: Just to see what it was like over there in Pinedale.

JS: Oh, to drive one of the trucks over?

KM: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, I should have asked for assignment there, but it never did get there.

TI: Now, I'm curious, what did you hear about Pinedale? So you had the Fresno and Pinedale assembly centers not too far apart.

KM: Right, right, uh-huh.

TI: And the Pinedale, the people in Pinedale were not from the Fresno area.

KM: Yeah, they were from the Washington area.

TI: Right. So what did you hear about the people in Pinedale?

KM: Yo8u know, really, we didn't hear too much about it. And they had a newspaper there, and we didn't hear too much about that, either. Maybe I should -- I have some copies of the Fresno assembly newsletters.

TI: Yeah, one of these days I'd like to see those. I've seen the Pinedale ones.

KM: Oh, you've seen Pinedale?

TI: Yeah, I haven't really looked at the Fresno ones.

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: It could be interesting to see how they're different. I think that for the people from Washington, they complained about the heat.

KM: Heat, yeah. Oh, yeah, they did.

TI: Now how about you? Were you used to the heat?

KM: Yeah, we were used to the heat. Yeah, it didn't bother us.

TI: [Laughs] Yeah, it's a big contrast from the people in Washington. That's all they talk about, was the heat.

KM: The heat, yeah. They couldn't stand the heat.

TI: Okay, so you worked in the motor pool. You mentioned your father, your family had a bicycle. What would your dad do with the bicycle?

KM: Oh, he'd, instead of walking, he'd ride. [Laughs] Yeah. It was funny. It was funny.

TI: It seemed fitting since he owned a bicycle shop.

KM: Yeah, bicycle shop, right.

TI: It was like advertisement for his place. In your spare time at Fresno, what kind of things did you do?

KM: In the spare time? Played basketball. I wasn't too much in baseball. And then the Butler, Butler Avenue was closed off because the camp extended past, south of Butler, so they closed that off. And then on Saturday nights, the fire department would wash down the street, and then they'd have social dancing at night, Saturday nights.

TI: Oh, on Butler Avenue?

KM: On Butler Avenue, uh-huh.

TI: And describe that. I mean, what... how many people were out there?

KM: There's quite a few young people out there, because we'd, community, there were people from all different areas. Sacramento, Florin, and Fresno, Caruthers, on through the valley. And, of course, the young people wondered what there is to do, so Saturday night we'd come out, you could listen to the music or start dancing. And kind of looked forward to being in the motor pool, we had to bring the chairs out for the side, fire department washed the streets down, and then the kitchen brought... what was that? Not corn flakes. Anyway... oatmeal, put it on the road to keep it... instead of...

JS: Instead of the dirt?

KM: Instead of dirt, yeah.

TI: And, like, what kind of, for the music, was there a band or was it...

KM: Oh, they were forming a band, because there were musicians there, too. So they were forming a band. And I know in Jerome they had a band.

TI: Oh, so they were just forming, so the music, they used a record player, then?

KM: Mostly a record player, yeah.

TI: And what kind of music did you guys listen to?

KM: Oh, we were listening to swing and all of that 1940 music.

TI: Yeah, it's a real vivid picture. I'm trying to think... and then in terms of the lighting, did they have lots of light around?

KM: No, we didn't have too much light, because we just used the streetlights. They were bright enough. We didn't have any lighting.

TI: Yeah. That's just a real visual kind of scene, when you think about the street and the dancing, and how they prepared everything.

KM: Lot of 'em, for a couple, three hours, there was a lot of preparation for that. And then they had a... on the, I think the rec. department, they put on a couple plays, camp life plays. So there was activities around.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay. So I want to now move on. After the Fresno Assembly Center, where did you go next?

KM: Jerome, Arkansas.

TI: And tell me about, yeah, tell me about it. That's a long ways from Fresno to Jerome.

KM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So talk about the journey to Jerome.

KM: Oh, Jerome, we got on at the SP Depot, and Fresno Bee photographers around taking pictures. And we got... I was one of the later ones. We were on the cleanup crew, so we were the later ones, last ones to leave. We went through Bakersfield and we went through the Hasebe Pass.

TI: Okay, so Kenji, before that, you said something interesting. You were cleanup crew. What did you have to do to clean up the place?

KM: Cleanup crew? Yeah, we got... what did we do? Oh, we had to help the evacuees, heavy, they had a lot of heavy trunks, you know, the old style trunks that they had? Oh, they were heavy. And we had to load those onto the trucks and take it to the spur, yeah, railroad spur to load onto, to send to Arkansas. And we loaded them on the trucks, and wow, three or four high, tie 'em down, take 'em to the boxcar, unload 'em, load 'em inside the boxcars. Had to be careful because I remember loading boxcars. I used to load boxcars when I was younger, and we had to brace everything because the fruit was being shipped back east. But this boxcar, they threw everything in there, they didn't even hold it down or anchor it down, they just filled it up and let it bang around itself. You stop, and, "Pow." That was our cleanup crew. We just... yeah, mostly helped the evacuees with their baggage, their heavy baggage. You know, they took on the carry-ons that we had to clean up after each block. We had to go out and clean that out.

TI: Okay. And now you're telling me, your trip across the country.

KM: Yeah, going across, right. And we stopped twice to stretch our legs, and of course, the soldiers got out there with their rifles and watched us, so we just walked up and down the railroad tracks, exercised our legs. I think we stopped twice going over.

TI: And about how many days did they...

KM: I think it took three days. And it was just like a troop train going over. We had... it was pretty good, because they had a dining car in the, they served us. The food was brought to the table.

TI: Oh, so you guys took turns in terms of going to the dining car?

KM: Yeah, because we had, I don't know how many cars we had, and each car would be assigned to go, to go eat. There was quite a few of us that left, cleanup.

TI: Now, as you were going, did people know where you were going?

KM: Oh, yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So you knew it was Jerome, Arkansas.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: And when you got there, what were your impressions of Jerome?

KM: Says, "Wow, what a forsaken place," yeah. Way in the boonies, you find out that that was the lowest level of the community, was Jerome. And it was a Japanese internment camp, lot of new facilities, and people found, the citizens of Jerome found out the workers in Jerome were getting paid more than the people in Jerome were getting paid. Like the teachers were getting...

TI: Oh, I see. So the... not the Japanese Americans, but --

KM: No, no, the employees of the Jerome, yeah, the Caucasian, and, well, the government workers, actually.

TI: So that caused resentment amongst the local people when they found out that people were coming and getting more than they were.

KM: Yeah.

TI: Now, did you have much interactions with the locals?

KM: Locals? No, uh-uh. We had shopping trips to Fort Smith... was it Fort Smith? I think it was Fort Smith, yeah, in Arkansas, that was close to the Mississippi border, and we'd go shopping there, and, my god, go to a store, and the counters were just counters with merchandise on top, and then the floors were sand, sand floors. No asphalt, and no wood floors. Different type of living altogether.

TI: Did you come across, when you were on these shopping excursions, sort of the segregated South? I mean, did you see differences in how blacks were treated versus whites?

KM: No, we didn't get a chance to see that. Maybe they didn't want us to see that, but we didn't see too much of that.

TI: 'Cause you went more to, like a base, or army base or something?

KM: No, it was a small town.

TI: Oh, a small town?

KM: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Okay.

KM: Southern small town. Yeah, it's a little different than California. They're backwards. [Laughs]

TI: So did you have a job in Jerome?

KM: Jerome? Yeah, I was in the ag. department.

TI: And so what were you growing, or what was your job?

KM: No, I was in the office.

TI: Okay.

KM: Yeah, I went out on one of the field trips picking cucumbers. What an experience, oh, wow. Because first thing, you get there, they said, "Pick up a stick." And says, "What? Pick up the stick? What for?" He says, "Oh, you'll find out. Pick up the stick." Says, "Okay." Pick up a stick, we go picking cucumbers, and you'd take the stick and you would lift up the branches, the cucumbers. Then said, "What do you do that for?" Said, "You'll find out." Then way in the distance, you hear, "Snake, snake." There are snakes underneath the vines. Water moccasins and copperheads and rattlesnakes.

TI: So these were all very poisonous snakes.

KM: Yeah, they're poisonous snakes, and they're underneath the cucumber vines. It was, wow, what an eye-opener. Let's see. And then I've never farmed before, so I don't know anything about it. So said, "Okay, pick up a hoe, you got to do some weeding." [Laughs] And the old-timers, they got a file and they're filing the hoe. Said, "What are they doing that for?" Anyway, I got a file and a hoe and I did the same thing, filed it, make a sharp edge on the hoe, so it'd be easier to hoe.

TI: So the experienced farmers knew what they were, they had to do that.

KM: Oh, yeah, experienced farmers, we sure learned fast. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So what are some other memories of Jerome for you?

KM: Jerome was... oh, poison ivy. Oh my god, I don't know where I got it, I got it bad, and I even blistered on my whole arm, blistered. So I went to the hospital and the nurse would give me a shot. I remember she gave me a shot in my right arm. And when she pulled out the... she left the needle inside my arm, so she had to get a plier to pull it out.

TI: Ouch. [Laughs]

KM: Ouch, yeah. And then Dr. Taira came along, and he'd see that, he says, putting gauze on it, so he gauzed my arm, and then he put some zinc oxide, this was liquid, and they poured it on on top of the gauze, and they dried up the, all that wet pus that used to come out. And then the gauze, I guess, dried it all out and it cleared. It was surprising, gee, that suffering that poison ivy, oh, my god.

JS: So Dr. Taira was one of the main doctors from Fresno.

KM: Yeah, uh-huh, he was, right.

JS: Where was his practice in Fresno?

KM: Right on F and, I think Mono. Is the building still there? I don't know. I remember it's a wooden building. Everybody went o him. He was also the doctor for the Edison football team, too.

JS: And there was another doctor, Okonogi?

KM: Okonogi? Well, that was way before, yeah. He was my doctor. And then there was a Dr. Hashiba, the three doctors, yeah.

JS: But Dr. Taira, he's not that much older than you, right?

KM: Yeah, he must have been about four years older.

JS: Okay. So he was a young doctor.

KM: Yeah, he was pretty young.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: After a few months, the administration came out with "loyalty questionnaires."

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you remember that?

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So what happened with you and your family with the "loyalty questionnaire"?

KM: We were "no-nos." "Are you..." let's see...

TI: I think the first one was, "Will you be willing to serve in the U.S. Army?"

KM: Right, right.

TI: And then second one was, "Will you forswear allegiance to the Japanese Emperor?

KM: Yeah, right, uh-huh. "No-no."

TI: Now was this a discussion that the family had in terms of how you should...

KM: Oh, it was, Jerome was a hotbed. So we had meetings, and yeah, they said, "no-no," "uh-uh." Here's a Sansei treated as a 4-C, "enemy alien"? Didn't go very good. And we didn't... wasn't born in Japan, so we didn't know anything about the Emperor, so "no-no."

TI: And so you say, so in Jerome there were lots of meetings. Describe, did you go to any of those meetings?

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: Describe one of those meetings. What was that like?

KM: At times it's anti... of course, there was a Nisei sergeant and a white second lieutenant that used to come into the camp to try to get the draftees to draft, and that's when the argument came out, "How come we're segregated and put away in a concentration camp?" Oh, it got heated, yeah. And they wanted an explanation from the lieutenant, I guess he didn't know what to say, really. He could be scared, too, because he's in a Japanese camp with only him being a white guy, yeah. [Laughs]

TI: And so people were upset, they were, but they were, it sounded like they were articulate. They would ask him, "So here's the situation. Why... we're American citizens, why are we treating them, we're treated this way, and now you're asking us to volunteer to fight."

KM: Right, uh-huh.

TI: And so he wasn't able to really...

KM: He didn't have a definite answer. It was pretty hard for him, yeah. Of course, he should have brushed up on it before he came out.

TI: And so what was your thinking at this time? When you were confronted with...

KM: All this? Yeah. Said, well, like I said, being a Sansei and being treated like an "enemy alien" in the country that you were born in, wow, that didn't stand good with me.

TI: Now, did they talk about consequences? If you, if you went "no-no," what might happen to you if you did that?

KM: Not at that time, they didn't, no. But later on, we were sent to Tule Lake, "no-nos," yeah.

TI: Did your father say anything when he had --

KM: Yeah, he was mad about that, too, because being a Nisei, older Nisei, oh, yeah.

TI: And so did everyone in your family who had to fill out the questionnaire, did they all go "no-no"?

KM: Yeah, because, of course, he wanted to keep the family together, so everybody was a "no-no."

TI: Now, was there any friction or conflicts in Jerome between, say, families that went "no-no" --

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: -- and families that went "yes-yes"? Was there some conflict there?

KM: No violence, but of course, there was silent treatment that you can feel. Once in a while you would hear something. We were going, there was one family in our block that we had to walk in front of. And she wanted a "no-no," and then her kids didn't want to go "no-no," so they stayed, and she was, every time we walked by there, she says, "Matta ibateru," she says. You know, "You're bragging about being a 'no-no.'" Little things like that, nothing, no major violence, that's all.

TI: And how was it for you, I'm guessing that some of your friends from Fresno may have gone "yes-yes," and you went "no-no." Was there some friction amongst your...

KM: No, there wasn't. There was no friction.

TI: Did you guys talk about it, though?

KM: No, uh-uh.

TI: Did people even know how you signed? I mean...

KM: Lot of 'em didn't know. Lot of them just kept it to themselves.

TI: So it probably wasn't until they started moving people...

KM: Right, then they would find out, yeah. But in our block, I know one side... yeah, half of our side was going, and half stayed.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay. So let's talk about getting moved from Jerome to Tule Lake.

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: So when you arrive at Tule Lake, describe, describe your first impressions at Tule Lake.

KM: Tule Lake was, oh, it was one of the older buildings, we had to move into that tarpaper barrack. That was a letdown, because in Jerome, gee, we had nice facilities, because it was the last one built. But when we moved in there, it wasn't even finished yet. They were still working on the toilets and the bathroom and the shower room.

TI: This was at Jerome?

KM: Jerome, yeah.

TI: Okay, so they're still constructing it.

KM: Yeah, and then we moved into Tule Lake and you see the old framed assembly center barracks with a tarpaper on the outside, and wow, what a letdown.

TI: So the facilities at Tule Lake were not as good as Jerome?

KM: Right, uh-huh.

TI: When you first got to Tule Lake and you had to be sort admitted or registered, was that process different than when you say --

KM: No, it's the same process, yeah. 'Course, they had soldiers over there going through your baggage, they had an Indian guy, "Aw, go ahead," he says. They didn't inspect anything.

TI: Okay. So in terms of where you lived, so you got one of the older barracks.

KM: Right.

TI: Tell me who else lived around you. Do you remember what block you were in, and the other people that were around you?

KM: Oh, no, I don't remember what block I was in. I think it was 18, and we were right there by a police station, substation, and a dental office. And people were there from Stockton, when we moved there, there were people from Stockton, yeah. Pretty well-known family from Stockton was there.

TI: Now, were they, did they come from a different camp also, or were they there initially?

KM: I think they came from another camp, I don't know which camp. Then we ran into a family from Washington, the Matsunaga family from Washington.

TI: And so the people in, say, your block, would you say they all came from different camps, or was there a mixture of some people who were there previously and some people who came?

KM: Uh-huh. Yeah, there was people that were there from previous, and, of course, we came along, too, yeah.

TI: So at Tule Lake, they had the same situation where people have answered the questionnaire. And then they offered those who did "yes-yes" to leave Tule Lake.

KM: Yeah.

TI: But some of them actually stayed.

KM: Yeah, a lot of 'em stayed at Tule. They didn't want to move.

TI: Right. So in your block, were there people who signed "yes-yes" but just decided to stay?

KM: No, I think most of 'em left. A lot of 'em wouldn't say how they signed. That's when they got moved, and then the people knew they were "yes-yes" or "no-no." That Tule was big.

TI: Yeah, it was, I think it reached, like, 18,000, or like twice the size of... or maybe three times the size of Jerome.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So tell me the differences in terms of the feeling inside camp. Jerome versus Tule Lake, were there differences in terms of maybe more tension inside Tule?

KM: There was more tension in Tule, Tule Lake, yeah.

TI: And describe that. Why was there more tension?

KM: I guess because there was a lot of Kibeis in Tule Lake, too, and they were pushing their pro-Japanese, which turned out to be pretty good. Because they had the exercises in the morning, and it's all done in Japanese. And, well, they got the older people to start doing exercise, too. So I guess that's why we were living so long, all that exercise we did in Tule.

TI: So did you participate in the morning exercises?

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So describe that. How early would you have to rise?

KM: We had to be there at six o'clock, because we had to go to work at eight, and of course you had to eat and all that, so probably about an hour. It was actually a drill march, that's what it was. It was all done in Japanese. And some of these kids, the Kibei kids giving the commands, they were, must have been high school kids when they were in, when they first got evacuated. So they were there, and some of those kids were good.

TI: Now, so how did... so initially, when you were in Jerome, you talked about, well, you were, here you are a Sansei, being put into a camp, and how that wasn't right. At Tule, it seemed like it was a little big different. Here you have people that are maybe more pro-Japan.

KM: Oh, yeah, there's a lot of pro-Japan in Tule, yeah.

TI: And so how did you feel about that?

KM: Oh, it didn't bother me. I let them believe what they believe, believe what I believe.

TI: And so did you think you believed, or your beliefs were different than theirs?

KM: I think it was. I think they were more pro-Japan than we were.

TI: And yours were maybe more upset with the U.S. government?

KM: That's what it was, more or less. That they treated us right and left us alone. And being in business, you always think about the profit end of it. I figured during the war, if they left us alone with all the ammunition and all that good stuff we had, we could have made it through the war. But being third generation, being uprooted and being treated like a third-class citizen. "Wow, what's this government doing to us?" But the thinking was different.

TI: When you're doing these exercises, one of the reasons these exercises were formed were to get people and trained, to then eventually go to Japan and fight for Japan. Did you ever hear that as a reason why to participate in these exercises?

KM: No, no, they didn't, they wouldn't emphasize fighting for Japan. But doing that exercise, wow, lot of discipline. God, the instructions in Japanese, "What?" [Laughs] You listen and then you do what, follow the guy in front of you is doing. But it was, a lot of the older people used to come out and watch, because of being a group, six across, maybe ten deep, and all young men. Then the tall one be in the front, and then the back would be the short ones.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. But if you're in the back, then you can't see as well, right? I mean, you have the tall ones in front, and short ones in back.

KM: In back, yeah. You just followed the guy in front of you.

TI: Okay. I guess that makes... yeah, interesting. I've never heard that. I'm trying to think why.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: At some point within, at Tule Lake, they started talking about whether or not -- especially U.S. citizens -- whether or not they would renounce their citizenship and go back to Japan. Was that something that your family had talked about or talked about during that time? About going back to Japan?

KM: No, there wasn't any talk about it within the family. But then, of course, they had the hearings, and they would say, the guys that went through it, says, "This is what the hearing was about, this is what I said," and that was it. And it was up to the, to whoever was interviewing you to classify you, which way you were going.

TI: And so can you tell me what it was like for your hearing when you went forward? Like the questions they asked?

KM: The questions... gee, it's so far back, I can't remember that. I don't know what they asked.

TI: But the outcome, after you went through the hearings, what was, what happened to you?

KM: Well, they just told us to go after we had the hearing, yeah. So, and then after that, why, then we got segregated again.

TI: So tell me about that, segregated again. Where were you taken then?

KM: Then they put, I was sent to Santa Fe after that.

TI: Okay, so after the hearing, so they decided to put you in Santa Fe. How about your father or brothers?

KM: Oh, the brothers, the rest of the family was okay. Oh, one of my brothers went there, my dad went to, I went, and, of course, second, yeah, the next brother went. The three of us were sent to different camps again.

TI: Okay, so you went to Santa Fe, and where did your father go?

KM: Father went to Santa Fe.

TI: So your father went to Santa Fe, and your younger brother went...

KM: I think he went to Bismarck.

TI: Did they ever tell you why you were being sent to Santa Fe?

KM: No, they didn't tell us why, they just said, "You go to Santa Fe." Maybe because we were kind of too active in the community.

TI: Did you think of yourself as being outspoken about what was going on, I mean, in the community, did you articulate your thoughts and why you thought this was wrong?

KM: Maybe. Maybe I did, yeah. Of course, there's rumors, so they could have heard about it.

TI: Well, what's your sense? I mean, in the community, do you think there were people who were observing you and others?

KM: I think there was, yeah.

TI: Because I would think just in this, in this hearing, they couldn't tell too much. I mean, you could tell them almost anything, and the questions, and so they, I'm trying to figure out how they got the information to single you, your father and your brother out.

KM: Don't know how.

TI: So when they decided -- after the hearing, and they decided that you needed to go to Santa Fe, how much time was there? Did you have time to talk to your parents?

KM: Oh, yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, there was time. They give you enough time. They were pretty fair about that.

TI: So when you went to Santa Fe, did you go with your father at the same time?

KM: No, uh-uh. The father went first, and then I went later.

TI: And when they took your father, did you know that you were gonna go later, or did you find out after your father left?

KM: You know, it's just like the FBI, they come middle of the night, knock on your door, and get you dressed up and take you away. And that's what happened to my father, yeah.

TI: And the same thing with you, did they do a similar --

KM: No, for us, it was different. They told us to meet at a certain place, and then we met there, and then they took us.

TI: So your father was targeted.

KM: Yeah, I guess he was, maybe he was too active and that's why.

TI: So at this point, so the Santa Fe was classified as a Department of Justice internment camp.

KM: Right, uh-huh.

TI: Technically, U.S. citizens were not supposed to go to these camps.

KM: Yeah.

TI: And so the mechanism would have to be that you and your father would have signed something to renounce your U.S. citizenship?

KM: Yeah, "no-no," yeah.

TI: Well, more than just the "no-no," but something else that said you would be willing to give up your U.S. citizenship.

KM: That was our hearing in Tule Lake when they...

TI: Oh, okay, so that's when that happened. And then they, it sounds like they came and took your father, and then gave you notice that you were also going to go to Santa Fe. So how did you feel about this? Did you think... so here you went from Fresno to Jerome, to a concentration camp, then you were taken to Tule Lake, and now you're being sent to a U.S. Department of --

KM: Santa Fe.

TI: Santa Fe.

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: So what's your thinking right now?

KM: Thinking, "Well, if it's gotta happen, it's gotta happen," that's all. At that time, you didn't know how long the war's gonna last. You just had a second chance, that's all.

TI: And how'd you feel about this? Were you angry about it, were you just, "Shikata ga nai?"

KM: Yeah, it's one of those shikata ga nai things again. So I wasn't angry about it.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So let's talk about Santa Fe. What did you see at Santa Fe?

KM: [Laughs] Oh, Santa Fe? It's pretty country. [Laughs]

TI: So better than Jerome?

KM: Yeah. It was a lot better than Jerome, because it was out in the foothills. And of course, it's the Indian architecture, but not the camps. Uh-uh, not the camps at all.

TI: So describe the camps.

KM: The camp was, it was just one long barrack, and tarpaper again, same thing, and all men in there. And we had people from, was it Chile or from South America. Quite a few fellows from South America, and they looked different, too, South American Isseis. Because most of 'em spoke Japanese and Spanish. And we seen one guy commit suicide, oh, it was kind of tragic. I guess he was depressed because they used the South American families to exchange prisoners, and they were people without a country because people in South America didn't want 'em, they didn't want 'em back. And, of course, they came into the United States as prisoners, and they didn't have any papers here, either. So they were technically people without a country.

TI: And so one of them committed suicide?

KM: He took lye. Came back from lunch, and there was a commotion going on, "What's going on?" Well, he just committed suicide. You know, you think about it, committing suicide is easy. And if you're depressed enough, you'll do anything.

TI: It must have been hard for you and others, though.

KM: No, it didn't bother us.

TI: It didn't bother you? Okay. How about security at Santa Fe compared to, say, Tule Lake?

KM: I'll tell you something about Santa Fe security. Lax. It's a federal, but lax. Because one of our younger member, he was studying radio. At that time, radio was... and he built himself a shortwave radio set, and he was, of course, the barrack was higher because we had to walk up to the barrack, there was a lot of room underneath. And he built himself a shortwave radio in the camp, and they didn't catch him. And he was listening to Tokyo all the time. And when they surrendered, he says, "Oh, I heard it on the news. NHK," he says. [Laughs] "What do you got?" he says. "I got a shortwave radio."

TI: So he built it and was able to hide it so that he could...

KM: Yeah, uh-huh. He was in the basement there. They were downstairs from the barrack. I thought that was funny, because you'd think they'd have equipment to trace all of that, but no, they didn't have anything.

TI: How about other security? Was it kind of similar to Tule Lake?

KM: Yeah, similar to the rest of the places, yeah, security was.

TI: And how about, like, fences and things like that?

KM: They had fences, barbed-wire fence, oh, yeah. And then they, the older guys played golf.

TI: You know, at, places like Santa Fe, here you had, from the whole West Coast, all the leaders of the Japanese community all in one place. Did you ever... and I guess your father among them, he was there, too. Did you see them talking a lot?

KM: Oh, yeah, because I think the three ministers from the Buddhist church was there, Fresno Buddhist church was in the same, same concentration camp, yeah.

TI: So did you ever participate in any discussions with the others or...

KM: No, uh-huh.

TI: Or how about your father? Did he ever talk to you about what was being discussed?

KM: No, he didn't. Yeah, kind of left us alone because it's a different group, different age groups.

TI: So you hung around more the people your age, the younger group.

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: And so they were the more recent people who went to Santa Fe, and they had the other group that was there maybe a little bit longer.

KM: Longer, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So what are some other memories? So you mentioned you saw some of the Buddhist ministers from Fresno. Other people from Fresno, did you see?

KM: No, that was about it. And after the war, they didn't know what to do. We had property in Japan, go back to Japan or not. But Dad talked to one of the ministers, he said, "No," he says, "if you can stay here, stay here in the United States." He said, "You go back to Japan, there's a shortage." Everything was short. And he says, "It's gonna be tough when you get back there. And you having a store here, you must have some merchandise that you can go back to." He says, "Be better to go back, to stay here in the United States instead of going back to Japan." And then before you left, they had a... oh, they had a hearing. And so went to the hearing, same guy that questioned me the first time was there again. And he says, "You think you made a mistake?" Says, "Yeah, I think I did make a mistake." Says, "I'm planning on staying here instead of going back to Japan." He said, "Oh, good." And I don't know what he did. Anyway, he says, "Yeah, you can stay if you want." So they didn't ship us back.

TI: Okay, so with that, after that hearing, then was your citizenship, you had your U.S. citizenship?

KM: We had to apply again for it, but they did rescind it. But then I don't know that you remember Myers? ACLU? Earl Myers?

TI: I'm thinking of...

JS: Wayne Collins.

TI: Yeah Wayne Collins?

KM: Wayne Collins, yeah, that's right. Wayne Collins, yeah. Yeah, that's right, Wayne Collins.

TI: And so he, they helped you...

KM: Yeah, they helped us get the citizenship back, yeah. Wayne Collins, yeah, that's who it was.

TI: Okay. But at least, so with that hearing, you were allowed to stay in the United States. So in some ways, you were, in that time period, a man without a country.

KM: Yeah, during that time, right, we were. That's right.

TI: That's interesting, yeah. You were stateless at that point.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So after that hearing, when they said, "Okay, you could stay in the United States, where did you go next?

KM: We went to my brother-in-law's place in San Leandro. He had a nursery, and he had a Portuguese guy take care of it, and he evacuated to Denver. Then he moved back, opened up the nursery... well, the nursery was running during the war because this guy took it over. He said, "Wow, he took it over all right, but he sure ruined the plants." Profit was good at that time, and you were in business. You had a lot of shortages.

TI: Now, why did you and your father go to San Leandro and not back to Fresno?

KM: We didn't have any property in Fresno to go to.

TI: But you still had maybe your, the goods that were stored...

KM: Yeah, right, uh-huh. But still, if it's in government, stored with government. So we didn't go back, and Dad wanted to open up a shop anyway. And then no place to stay, so we went back to San Leandro. Oh, my mother and... yeah, my mother's sister and brother were in San Leandro, because they closed Tule while we were gone. So they were there, so Dad and I, we went back to San Leandro.

TI: And how about your younger brother? He went to, you thought maybe to Bismarck. What happened to him?

KM: Oh, they closed that camp down and they moved everybody to Santa Fe.

TI: Okay, so he joined you there.

KM: Yeah, uh-huh, the three of us.

TI: Okay, so you all went together. So from San Leandro, how did you go back to Fresno?

KM: We worked, I worked in San Leandro in the nursery for I don't know how long, three or four years. And then my dad came back earlier, and he found the place, so he opened up the store and put all the merchandise that we put in it, showcases. So the store, actually, the store was just, the new store was just like the old store, but different location.

TI: And how about the community? How had the community, when you came back, how had the Fresno community changed?

KM: Oh, actually, I didn't see any changes, really.

TI: So it kind of looked pretty much the same as before the war?

KM: Right, uh-huh, it did, before the war, yeah.

TI: Now, how did the community treat you and your family?

KM: They were glad to see us back. They were glad to see us back opening the store again.

TI: And why were they so glad to see you back?

KM: Same old faces, I guess, and then the merchandise we had.

TI: Now, did you come under any criticism for the path that you and your family took to go to Tule Lake, then to...

KM: No, no criticism at all, yeah.

TI: How about discussions? Did anyone want to talk to you about what happened?

KM: No, not really. Actually, this is the first time that I've been asked to speak about all of this.

TI: No, I appreciate this because, you know, not very many men really took the path that you took.

KM: Oh, I guess not, yeah.

TI: So it's really, I think, important that people hear this.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: And so when you get back to Fresno, you're at a time when you had a bicycle shop, but cars were now...

KM: Taking place, yeah.

TI: Taking place, and very popular. So how do you survive with a bike shop in postwar America?

KM: Well, we had the bike shop, which was being a minor item. And then we had, we had sporting goods, and we, of course, he being a citizen, he got his guns and ammunition back. We were selling that, and then we had fishing tackle, which is a big seller.

TI: Also in my notes, another thing that kind of grew in the postwar era was motorcycles, too, especially Japanese motorcycles.

KM: Motorcycles, right. And I was one of the founders or the originators of American Honda. And I don't know when it was... 1960, was it? '59 or '60. I had it for thirty years, and I retired in '88, so it was '58, '59. And I applied in Japan for American Honda motorcycles, and got a letter saying, "We're not accepting anything from the U.S. because we're going to open up facilities in the U.S." So at that time, I said, "Let us know," that was it. And I got a postcard, in fact, all the hardware store, sporting goods store and everybody else got a postcard from American Honda saying, "Do you want to be a motorcycle dealer?" So I took it to my friend at a Dodge dealership, guy named Alan Scheidt. And he was in motorcycles, and he was up with the racing. I talked to him, and he says, asked me about this Japanese motorcycle that's winning all the races back East. And said, "What's the name?" He says, "No, I don't remember." So when I got this card, I took it to him and said, "What do you think?" He says, "Oh, yeah, that's the company that's winning all these races." So I says, "Apply for it." So I sent the postcard back, and two weeks later, I see a car drive up across the street, pulling a trailer with a motorcycle on the back. "What the heck's he doing?" and then he walks into the shop. And he tells me, "I hear you want to be a motorcycle dealer." Says, "Yeah, what do I have to do, anyway?" And he said, "Well, you have to order five bikes and two hundred dollars worth of parts as inventory." And said, "Yeah, that's it." I said, "Okay, let me sign up," so I signed up. And then about two, three weeks later, a big truck pulls up in the front of the shop. And I said, "What the heck?" He unloads two motorcycles, two crates of motorcycles, it's in a crate, and it's in the afternoon. I said, "Oh, wow," I said, "what's that?" He says, "This is motorcycle from American Honda." "They're not together?" Says, "No, you have to put 'em together." [Laughs] "Oh, okay," so I accepted them. And right in front of the sidewalk, I tore the crate apart. It took me four hours for one motorcycle. I didn't know anything about it, no instructions, you had to guess and put everything together. Then we had to put it in the store, no room. And then the other crate, what are you gonna do with that? I says, "Oh, take the crate out, take the crate in the back and throw it away. We'll put the bike together tomorrow." So that's what happened.

TI: And how easy was it to sell these bikes?

KM: It was real easy because Honda did some good advertising, and the price was right. I think it was $225 for buying, this was one of the smaller ones, of course. And then the advertisement was... oh, Honda... let's see. "Nifty Thrifty Honda Fifty" was their motto. And that's what sold. Gee, I'd be surprised. I didn't know how to put 'em -- did I know motorcycles? No, I didn't know anything about motorcycles.

TI: But your bike background must have helped a little bit.

KM: It did, yeah, quite a bit, yeah. Gee, I didn't know how to put 'em together, I didn't know how to ride one, I didn't know anything. So what do I have to do? I have to go get... I had the dealer number, so I had to go to DMV and get a license to sell motorcycles, that cost money. And I had to get insurance for it, and then I had to be bonded by the DMV. Oh my god, that first bike I sold, I was in the hole.

TI: But overall, was that a good investment?

KM: It was good investment, yeah. It was something that I was looking for, something exclusive. And there was only three Japanese dealers, one in Gardena, myself, and one in Seattle. There was only three. And then last year, we went to Moscone Center in San Francisco. That's the Honda dealer over there. Said, "What's your Honda number?" Almost 26,000. And my number was 000224.

TI: So you were one of the first couple hundred.

KM: Right, uh-huh.

TI: Now, does the family still own a dealership?

KM: No, no. When you're retired, when you sell out, the number is deleted.

TI: Oh, that's too bad. It's be worthwhile just to have that number.

KM: That's right. I had a friend that, from Sacramento, his dealer number was 59. He was a motorcycle dealer, see, I wasn't. I didn't know anything about motorcycles.

TI: But it's just part of history.

KM: Yeah, it's part of history, right.

TI: Interesting.

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: Wow. Kenji, we're kind of out of time here. [Laughs]

KM: [Laughs] Oh, running out of time.

TI: I could go on and on, but we have to get you back to, back home. So thank you so much for your time. I mean, this was, this was a wonderful interview. Thank you for sharing all that.

KM: Oh, yeah.

TI: So good, thank you.

KM: Thank you.

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