Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: George Murakami Interview
Narrator: George Murakami
Interviewer: Steve Ozone
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mgeorge_4-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

SO: Today is October 13, 2009. We're here with George Murakami. My name is Steve Ozone from the Twin Cities JACL Oral History group and videographer is Bill Kubota. So let's start with, what was your birth name and the day you were born?

GM: George -- not George, but Kiyoshi Murakami. And I was born in 1934 in Guadalupe, California, in San Luis Obispo County, Southern California.

SO: And George was not your birth name. How did you get that?

GM: Well, after I came out of camp in Sacramento, the first time I met some of the local Japanese kids there, and this one guy kept calling me George. He said he knew a guy in camp named George, and I looked just like him and he kept calling me George, and all the other kids started calling me George, and then it almost became official after that.

SO: Let's start with your father. What was his name?

GM: His name was Yoshiaki Murakami and he was born in Kumamoto-ken in Japan. And his father was visiting one of my father's older brothers in Guadalupe. And he thought the life here was pretty good, I guess, and he called my father over to visit Guadalupe, that was when he was about eighteen years old. And he took out a passport for visiting for five years and so he came to Guadalupe then.

SO: What was the port of entry?

GM: Port of entry was San Francisco. And he started, I guess, farming, but he eventually went to auto mechanic school in Los Angeles. And after he graduated from that he became a truck driver. He had his own truck and he was transporting commodities and things. He mentioned one time that he was contracted to go down to Mexico to bring up some fish.

And he took out a visa to go down there and bring up some fish, and he complained that he never really got paid for that and it was quite a long journey. The truck must have been a 1920 Model A truck or something like that.

SO: He continued that, truck driving?

GM: Yes, he did. I'm not sure how long he did it, but I think after he got married he went into farming himself because I guess he thought the truck driving business was kind of dangerous, I guess, he said.

SO: What was he like as a person?

GM: I would call him strict. [Laughs] But stern. He was pretty ambitious, though. And of course, he had difficulty because he really didn't speak very good English and things like that, but, and I think basically farming was where he didn't have to have contact with people and stuff.

SO: And back then when he was farming, he didn't own land, was he working for someone, or did he rent?

GM: Well, I think he rented and also a kind of a sharecrop type of thing where he supplied the labor, and the owner supplied the equipment and the land, and then they would share percentage-wise. I'm not sure what that was.

SO: Tell me about your mother, what was her name?

GM: My mother's name was Kiyoko Tsuyuki and she was born in San Francisco in 1911. And her father originally came from Japan to go to school, but then he fell on hard times, I guess, and he was running a boarding house for bachelors, Japanese bachelors. When she was, I don't know, early teens maybe, you know, in San Francisco they couldn't go to American schools, but anyway, she and her sister were sent back to Japan to get some training, not official education but training, sewing, cooking, and that sort of thing. And when she came back from Japan, of course, she was strictly Japanese. And think they called these people that went to Japan and came back as Kibeis. I think she was working in a packinghouse where my father was hauling vegetables, and that's where my father met my mother, and this is, I think, in Lompoc, California.

SO: Where's that?

GM: It's in Southern California also. I think it's in the northern part of San Luis Obispo


SO: What was your mother like when you were growing up?

GM: Well, I think she was strict. [Laughs] But she was very ambitious and hard working. You know, she worked out on the farm quite a bit too. And, of course, she was pretty young when she got, she was only seventeen when she got married. They had a pretty rough life, I think, basically out on the farm.

SO: How many kids were in your family?

GM: There was five of us. I had an older brother and sister, myself and then two younger brothers. And, let's see, we were about three years apart all the way through.

SO: We talked about your grandfather and that Murakami was not his original name.

GM: Right. We were just recently going through some old papers and stuff, and we came across this term that my father's father was titled, "adopted father," and we really didn't know what that meant. Well, we found out that my grandfather's name was Miyamoto, and when he married Murakami he took the Murakami name because this Murakami family didn't have any boys, and there were a lot of other boys in the Miyamoto family. And so we just found out that quite recently that our grandfather was a Miyamoto and took the Murakami name when he got married.

SO: Did you find out from relatives in Japan?

GM: I have a cousin that was more the family historian type of thing, and he told us what this adopted father thing meant.

SO: Where was your grandfather from in Japan?

GM: He was from Kumamoto-ken, which is on the island of Kyushu, I think it's near the city of Fukuoka.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.