Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Yoshimi Matsuura Interview
Narrator: Yoshimi Matsuura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Bloomington, Minnesota
Date: June 17, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-myoshimi-01-0002

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TI: Okay, so let's, let me ask first about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

YM: My father's name was Goro Matsuura, born in Hiroshima, it was Takata, what they call Takata-gun, Enomura. It was several miles, quite a few miles away from Hiroshima city, it was out in the farm area, up in the hills.

TI: And so farm area, did his family, were they farmers?

YM: Rice farms, small, real tiny farm there along the foothills. All of his friends were right up in there, doing the same thing.

TI: And what can you tell me about your father's family? Like did he have brothers or sisters?

YM: He had... all I can recall is he had a couple of brothers and a sister, but I don't know too much about them. I really regret that we never found out, never got into that.

TI: And was he the only one who came to the United States?

YM: Yes. He left home age of sixteen, and went to Hawaii and worked in the sugar cane farm there. He was about my build and not too physical. Handling bundles of sugar cane onto the flatbed wagon, he tells me, he told me that he was kicked off the plank because he was carrying too small of a load. [Laughs] He was doing the best he can. So when the railroad recruiters came to Hawaii, he decided, "Well, I'm going to try that," so he signed up with the railroad company and went to San Francisco in 1895.


TI: So, Yosh, before we get to the mainland, I want to ask, did your father ever tell you why he decided to leave Japan?

YM: Yes. [Laughs] I don't know whether it's true or not, but I found in a roundabout way, not directly from him, but at that time, Japan had a rule that when you're sixteen years old, you sign up for conscription or military service, or training at least. So in order to avoid that, he took off for Hawaii. Now, whether that's true or not, he would never admit it, but that's what I heard. And so that's why he wound up in Hawaii.

TI: Okay, so it's probably this opportunity to avoid the draft --

YM: Avoid the draft.

TI: -- and to go to Hawaii. Okay, so he went to Hawaii, he tried to do the sugar plantation, that work was really physical, really hard.

YM: Too physical.

TI: And so he then goes to San Francisco to work on the railroad.

YM: Yeah, he signed up with the railroad company and he was shipped to, he was working from San Francisco into the valley, San Joaquin valley. And in San Joaquin valley, he knew several of his hometown people or home area people from Hiroshima, so he decided to stay on the farm in San Joaquin valley, in Fowler area. So that's where he started farming.

TI: Now, how did this work when, as sort of a contract laborer? When he signs up to be the railroad worker, I'm guessing they paid, they paid for his passage.

YM: Oh, what he did at first was join the labor camp. There were Issei labor camp, and they would be transported to different farms to put in their day's work and come back to your lodging. So that's how he got started. And then he happened to be working at this one particular farm, and he thought, "Well, I'd like to try staying here permanently." So that's when he wound up staying at a farm owned by Ace and Jessie Wilkins on the farm.

TI: And do you know what it was about this farm that attracted your father?

YM: What it was?

TI: Yeah, why did he choose this farm?

YM: Actually, actually, it was the diversity, the type of work that he would be doing rather than to do the same, same old thing chosen by somebody else to do this and do that, he wanted to work right on the farm, stay there permanently.

TI: So was this because the farm was maybe a little smaller than the really large ones?

YM: It was a smaller farm, yes, smaller farm. And he liked the people who owned the farm, so they made good connection there, really.

TI: So can you describe for me maybe the size, like how many other workers --

YM: It was a 40-acre, 40-acre farm, a vineyard and peaches, orchard, peach orchard.

TI: And how many other workers do you think were there?

YM: On that farm? He was the only one.

TI: Wow, 40 acres?

YM: He was the only one, but then they hired, of course, for any labor that had to be done, harvesting peaches, cutting and drying the peaches for drying purpose, things like that. They had quite a crew working. There were workers available at the time.

TI: So it sounds like year-round, he would be at that farm working, but then for the seasonal stuff like harvest...

YM: Seasonal they would hire.

TI: ...they would hire extra workers. And so it sounds like he got pretty close to this family by being there year-round?

YM: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.