Densho Digital Archive
Topaz Museum Collection
Title: Nelson Takeo Akagi Interview
Narrator: Nelson Takeo Akagi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Date: June 3, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-anelson-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Tuesday, June 3, 2008, and we're in Salt Lake City. And I have the pleasure of interviewing Nelson. My name is Tom Ikeda with the Densho project, and on camera we have Dana Hoshide. So Nelson, I'm going to start with just asking you when and where were you born?

NA: I was born in Lindsay, California, June 27, 1923.

TI: And when you were born, what was the name given to you?

NA: Nelson Takeo Akagi, and that is on the birth certificate in Lindsay, California.

TI: So do you know why they named you Nelson? Where did "Nelson" come from?

NA: My dad worked for a big rancher named Walter Cairns, and he had a son named Nelson. So I'm quite sure my dad got the name from his boss's son.

TI: Okay. So you mentioned your father, what was your father's name?

NA: His name was Otoemon Akagi, but I think it was the, it was his boss that named him, gave him an American name Jack, because "Jack" must mean industrious or hard worker, and Dad was a hard worker.

TI: So do you recall, or do you know where your father, from Japan, where he came from?

NA: He came from the Okayama area, and so, and that was back in 1906, he was only sixteen years old.

TI: And why did he come to the United States?

NA: I guess for making money quickly and going back to Japan to live happily ever after, but it never happened.

TI: Did he ever talk to you about that, or is this just something you think he did?

NA: I'm just thinking that that's what his intentions were, but he probably fell in love with America because of the opportunities.

TI: And so how did your father meet your mother?

NA: I would think that it was arranged. And he went back in 1914 to marry her and to bring her over. And by that time, my dad was pretty well-established in Lindsay already. Mr. Cairns had already furnished him with a home, so when he brought his bride, my mother, over, they had a place to stay already and he had a job already with Cairns, so he had a steady income. And all that, I'm quite sure, made him not to go back to Japan, but to stay over here.

TI: So tell me a little bit more about Mr. Cairns. What kind of ranch or what kind of place did he have?

NA: Oh, he had, I think, about a total of 100 acres of orange and olive, what do they call it, orchard or grove. [Laughs]

TI: And what kind of work did your father do?

NA: He was the irrigator and the straw boss. To get the Japanese from Japan, they were the laborers and he would gather them up and put them in the camp right there on the farm, boss's farm. And he was the, well, boss of the crew.

TI: And so how many Japanese workers would work for your father?

NA: Oh, I would say about ten, ten to twenty.

TI: And so your, it sounds like your father had a separate house for himself.

NA: Yes.

TI: And then the workers lived more a barracks kind of...

NA: Barracks type.

TI: Now, do you recall what that kind of looked like? Did they have, like a furo, things like that?

NA: Oh, that's right. They had Japanese type of furo. In fact, our home also had a Japanese type of, a Japanese type of furo. But definitely, yes, no running water, I mean -- they had running water, but no indoor plumbing.

TI: So it sounds like Mr. Cairns trusted your father for him to make him kind of the boss and oversee all of this.

NA: Right.

TI: So was he, was he pretty well-paid, do you think, at that time?

NA: I imagine he was pretty well-paid, or at the going wages those days.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Topaz Museum. All Rights Reserved.