Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Joseph Norio Uemura Interview
Narrator: Joseph Norio Uemura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 16, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ujoseph-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Tuesday, June 16, 2009, and we are in Minneapolis, Minnesota. [Laughs] I have to remember where we are. Working the camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And today we have Joseph Uemura to interview. Do you mind if I call you Joe during the interview?

JU: Not at all.

TI: Okay, so Joe, why don't we start, and could tell me when you were born?

JU: Let's see. The third of July in 1926.

TI: And where were you born?

JU: In Portland, Oregon, at the Emmanuel Hospital.

TI: Okay, so you were born in a hospital.

JU: Yes.

TI: And before we get to your life, I want to talk a little bit about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

JU: Well, his name was Seijiro Uemura, and he was born in Wakayama-ken, the town was Akao, and his father was a small farmer. And he had an elder brother, Kusujiro. And they were working farmers, and, of course, their whole family was involved. But historically, he was born in 1882. And so about the time he was going to turn a draftable age in Japan, the Sino (and) Russian war was imminent. That was just about to happen. So he and his brother were recruited by Americans in Wakayama in order to work in the American railroad.

TI: And I just want to make sure I understand this. So you mentioned the potential military draft. Was that one of the reasons why he decided to accept this, this labor position in America?

JU: That's right. There was, it was a very war-ridden time because the Russians were wanting to expand into Asia, and things weren't going well with China or with Russia at the time. And so potentially war years at the end of the nineteenth century.

TI: And in general, when you say... because I know your father later on went into the ministry, would you think of him more as a pacifist type? Is that another reason why?

JU: I think he was very much convinced that war was not going to be his game if he could escape it, and the same with his elder brother, two brothers did volunteer to come to America to work. And it was the movement after the Chinese were barred from being laborers in the United States. So he and his brother decided to follow the opportunity to come to America.

TI: Now, did he ever discuss with you what his father or your grandfather said about him coming to America?

JU: Dad and I were relatively close, and he would have said that his father also was very much against international wartime inevitabilities. And he was really wanting to concentrate on, if anything, their education. He was more worried about their being educated than serving in the military.

TI: And I'm curious, while in Japan, was there any predisposition towards Christianity? Was, like your grandparents or anyone involved in any Christian movements in Japan?

JU: Well, he actually was studying Christianity and his little, there was a little Christian church in Akao. And it still exists, although in Japan, Christianity never took hold as well. So he was always interested in that because, because I think he was interested in world events, not Japanese events. At that time also, there was a movement in Japan to establish Western relationships and Western culture, and he was interested in a global approach.

TI: And this was your grandfather you're talking about, or your father?

JU: Yeah, this is my dad.

TI: Your dad, okay.

JU: My grandfather also was a very, very quiet and thoughtful guy, apparently, from all descriptions.

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