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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Wednesday, June 17, 2009, and we're in Minneapolis conducting interviews with Yosh Matsuura. And in the room we have Dana Hoshide doing the camera, I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we also have observing Steve Ozone from the JACL Twin Cities. And so, Yosh, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. And so I'm going to start from the beginning and ask you, can you tell me when you were born?

YM: May the 3rd, 1918.

TI: So that would make you ninety-one years old?

YM: Ninety-one years old. I just celebrated my ninety-first birthday.

TI: That's tremendous. And can you tell me where you were born?

YM: Fowler, California, which is about ten miles south of Fresno, a little town on a farm.

TI: And so were you born on the farm or in like a healthcare facility?

YM: No, I was born in Fresno hospital, Okanogee Hospital, which was a Japanese hospital there.

TI: So what that pretty common for a Japanese at that time to go to the hospital?

YM: No, no. Many of the births were right in the, at home, and not even a midwife there. [Laughs] It was very primitive.

TI: And so why was it that you were born in a hospital?

YM: I really don't know, I don't know. I never found out. But they did tell me that when I was about three years old, I spent about three weeks in a hospital with pneumonia, and I was in pretty bad shape, I guess, but the same hospital.

TI: Okay. And then when you were born, what was the name given to you at birth?

YM: Yoshimi.

TI: And, like, any middle names or anything like that?

YM: No, no middle name.

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

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.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: And describe to me, now, your mother. How did your father and mother...

YM: That's the old Japanese tradition, arranged marriage. She was sent to my father's home a year before the marriage to be with the family, become part of the family. And then she was sent to California.

TI: Oh, that's interesting, I haven't heard this before. So before she came to California, she spent a year with the family?

YM: One year with her future in-laws.

TI: And was that, describe to me why that, why that was part of --

YM: I really don't know. All I heard, I thought it was kind of odd, but apparently that was done in those years. Not everybody, but some families chose to do that.

TI: And do you know, in that one year's time, what she did with the family?

YM: Just lived with the family, and I imagine they put her to work. [Laughs]

TI: Well, that's what I was guessing. So it's a way of getting help.

YM: Well, it's a way of getting acquainted, and it's... I suppose it would be a training of some sort, they felt. So this was the start of her life.

TI: And so after a year of that, then she then goes to California to join your father.

YM: Yes, yes.

TI: And do you know about what year that was when she came?

YM: To California?

TI: To California.

YM: It was... oh, gee. I'd have to look that up.

TI: But how many years was your father working at the farm...


YM: It was 1915, 1915.

TI: Okay, good. Because soon later, you were born. And so at this point, your mother had spent a year with the family but had not met your father.

YM: No.

TI: So the first time they met was in California.

YM: California.

TI: So do you know how, where they met in California?

YM: No, I don't.

TI: Whether it was down at San Francisco or...

YM: Well, it was at San Francisco, and then back to Fresno area or Fowler. And that was their first time that they met.

TI: So this was kind of a form of being a "picture bride."

YM: Yes, that's right. It's the same thing.

TI: That your father had not really seen your mother.

YM: No, he's never seen her before.

TI: Okay. And tell me your mother's name.

YM: My mother's name is Hichimi, Hichimi Nagao was her maiden name, Matsuura.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Okay, and before I forget, can you tell me a little bit about your father first in terms of what he was like, sort of, personality-wise?

YM: My father was not a, what you call an outspoken person, he was pretty much reserved. He was, he had a conscience that bothered him, and he would never do anything that would go beyond what any limitation. Just to give you an idea, this farm that he had, worked on, he had the chance to buy that farm. He bought that farm from Jessie and Ace Wilkins because Ace wanted to retire. And California passed the anti-Asian land law, and instead of transferring the property over to an older Nisei who happened to be a citizen, which was done by other people, he figured that was circumventing the law. He didn't feel proper about it, so he sold it back to the original owner. Well, he could have just as well put it in somebody else's name and continued as if he owned the property, but he wouldn't do that. This is the type of person he was. He just wanted to stick straight, strictly to the law.

TI: So it sounds like he had a really high level of integrity.

YM: Yeah, he was one of these people that just didn't want to hurt anybody. He didn't mind people taking advantage of him, but he wasn't gonna do the other. But eventually he was one of the first one in the community to be picked up by the FBIs, we never know why.

TI: Yeah, we'll get to that later. So your father was doing the farming, and I asked about his personality. Let me ask about your mother. What was she like?

YM: She was very reserved. She didn't like to, didn't like public as much as anybody. Well, most of the time, she would be at home, background. Never really got involved in the community, family first, took care of the kids, worked on the farm.

TI: And so I was going to ask, when you said not that involved with the community, but in terms of socializing, your mother and father, what would they do after the work was done and to socialize with maybe other Isseis? Do you recall that?

YM: They had friends who called. But living on the farm like that was, it was a busy, busy life. They always had work to do, so weekends, yes, and they belonged to a Japanese church in Fresno, and that was part of their social life.

TI: And when you say Japanese church, what church was that?

YM: Japanese congregational church in Fresno. And we also had the Japanese language school in Fowler called the Koyuu Gakuen, and they sent us all over there to get the basic Japanese language, which I think they failed. [Laughs]

TI: Well, we'll get to that. So that's a good segue into, kind of, you. And before we talk about you specifically, let's talk about what siblings, I know you had a brother.

YM: I had, yes. Asami Arthur is the oldest, born in 1916. And Herb Harumi was born in 1917, and I'm the third. Just three, three of us, a year apart.


TI: So you're the third.

YM: I'm the third. And the fourth is my sister Minnie, who was five years younger than myself, 1923.

TI: Good. And --

YM: And then Taro.

TI: Okay, Taro. He's ten years younger than I am.

TI: So 1928.

YM: And then a sister, the youngest, youngest of all, Jane. Jane Suyako.

TI: And how much younger than...

YM: And she's seventeen years younger than me.

TI: Wow, so 1935...

YM: Seven years younger than Taro.

TI: Yeah, 1935, okay. So that's a, that's a...

YM: I'm giving away their ages. They might... [laughs]


TI: Okay, so good. So we have that, and you're like the third of six. There are two, four... four boys and two girls?

YM: Four boys and two girls.

TI: Good, okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So you were talking about Japanese language school. So did all of you attend Japanese language school?

YM: Yes. We attended Japanese language school to eat lunch and play. [Laughs] No, we tried to learn the language, some, probably some of my brothers were probably more serious about it than I was. But we managed to stay in.

TI: And how frequently did you --

YM: And this is on Saturdays, Saturdays. We've often wondered why we had to do that when all of our friends had a day off on the weekends, our Caucasian friends. Here we had to go to another class, but that was part of our life.

TI: Well, so really, like, seven days a week, because you had five days of school, Saturday Japanese language school, and then Sunday you probably had to go to church.

YM: Sundays we went to Sunday school, yeah.

TI: So every day you had something. So going back to the Japanese language school, describe to me the size of the class.

YM: We had, we had one, just the one instructor initially. And she was from Fresno, selected by the parents. Mrs. Ohara was her name, and she was a very good instructor. And eventually they added a second person, because it was too much of a load for her. And the instructor that we added, they added, were generally college students from Japan who, it was additional income for them, so just on Saturdays. That was our setup there.

TI: And generally how large was the Japanese school?

YM: Oh, gosh, I don't know what the number of students were. I would guess probably around thirty-five, forty. That would just be a guess, I've never thought of it that way.

TI: Well, and this kind of leads into, I'm just trying to get a sense of the size of the Japanese community in Fowler.

YM: Well, because we had another school in Fowler which was much larger, and that was the Buddhist group. And they had a good size turnout over there, and there were, I believe they were more... I think they were more conscientious about the Japanese language and tradition than we were. We were straying away from all of that, I think, because of our association with our churches and stuff.

TI: Well, so that leads to the question, so did the Buddhist group, the Buddhist language school, did they allow Christians to go to that one?

YM: Well, we went to, when we started, when I first started Japanese school, we were studying along with the Buddhists, we were going to the same school. And they would have their Buddhist service there prior to our Japanese classes. And after they were through with their service, then we would have our school. So eventually, a group of our fathers got together and purchased the building and started their own school, which they thought would be more convenient. They would hire their own teachers and set their own schedule.

TI: And this second school, was it, the majority of people Christian?

YM: Yes, they were, majority was Christian and some were... either way is okay with them type. Many of our friends, the parents may have been Buddhist, but they came to our school.

TI: And so I'm curious about your parents. Were your parents Christian?

YM: My parents were not Christian when they came to the United States, no. My father happened to go to YMCA language school, English language school. So that's when he decided he'd turn Protestant, because of the help that he was getting. My mother came from a strong Buddhist family. She always felt that she was half Buddhist and half Christian, or Protestant. But her brother, she had a brother who was a priest. So you can see the background there, and it was a struggle for her.

TI: And within the community, was there ever any kind of tension or friction about Buddhists converting to Christianity?

YM: No, no. It was no problem there, that I know of. I don't think, I haven't heard of any.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And you mentioned how your father, at the YMCA, was there taking English courses. Can you tell me how well your mother and father spoke English?

YM: My father spoke a fair amount of English. I think he did quite well for an Issei. He had to choose his words a little, but he did quite well. My mother never did learn English. She just depended on the kids and the father.

TI: And so generally around the, you have all these kids around the dinner table. What was the language spoken?

YM: English.

TI: And then would your --

YM: The minute, the minute you started school, when you started school, all your kids, your friends were speaking English and Japanese language drops out. My brother, the oldest brother, knew no English at all, hardly, when he first started school. Same as my wife. Oldest in the family, and then when he started school, after he started school, from there on, it's been English. Because the brothers all picked it up before they started school. So we had no problem at all. But my oldest brother, of course, he had to pick it up on his own.

TI: So you had the benefit of two older brothers --

YM: Two older brothers.

TI: -- who had already started school, they spoke English, so you heard and spoke English before you started.

YM: Heard and spoke English, and probably some of the things I heard wasn't quite right. [Laughs] But...

TI: But at least it was easier than your --

YM: Let's just say it wasn't Japanese.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: With your brothers and other friends, I'm trying to get a sense of growing up in Fowler, what were some of the, I know you had, every day you had something, but say in the summertime when you're not going to school, what were some of the activities that you would do?

YM: Well, we used to, we lived on a farm where we had a fair-sized yard, and we used to have our friends, our classmates come over, and we'd have ballgames and stuff like that. We found our own entertainment. No electronics, of course, but we found our own ways of doing things. And we did a lot of tree climbings and stuff that kids usually do, and something that the parents won't allow them to do now.

TI: And so it sounds like the farm, your farm, was kind of...

YM: You found our own...

TI: Right, was kind of a center of a lot of activity.

YM: Yes, yes.

TI: That your friends would come over...

YM: Yes, definitely. But in the summer months, if it's the harvest season, everybody was busy.

TI: And in general, when your friends came over, were they all Japanese or were they different...

YM: They were mostly Japanese, yes, mostly Japanese. But we had a big community of Armenian nationality. So many of our friends were of Armenian background. So that was kind of interesting because they had an altogether different lifestyle. Not lifestyle, but culture, food, especially.

TI: Yeah, no, I read about this, that there is a strong Armenian community in this area. So I'm curious, how did the two cultures get along? Because they were similar --

YM: No problem, no problem.

TI: 'Cause it was similar, where your friends, Armenian friends' parents, they were immigrants, and so they were kind of like Nisei Armenian?

YM: Yes. As we recalled, the Armenian, they had problems, of course, in their country with the Turks, and they were more or less driven out. So they were one of these people who lost their place and moved into America, a hardworking bunch, all on the farm. Good neighbors.

TI: Yeah, what were some of the things that you noticed about them in terms of food or activities that was perhaps different than the Japanese?

YM: Well, it was different in many ways. There was no comparison between the Japanese food and the Armenian food. They talked about shish kabobs and stuff like that which we knew nothing about. They liked to eat lamb, which we didn't. So it was a treat for us to visit them.

TI: And so did you have the opportunity to visit some Armenian families?

YM: Yes. Yes, we did. But we didn't do too much of that, though. But we knew, we got along.

TI: Okay. And were you --

YM: My class are... this is something I'll have to throw in here. My wife and I were -- before we were married, of course -- she and I were the two Japanese in that class. Our grade school, eighth grade class, a total of, big sum of six. [Laughs] Four Armenian and two Japanese. My wife and I were the Japanese, and we had one Armenian boy, and the rest were Armenian girls. So we had no Scandinavians or Germans or Irish or anything. It was an unusual class, real tiny class. For whatever reason, it was the Depression, I suppose.

TI: And just Japanese and Armenian.

YM: Japanese/Armenian class.

TI: That's interesting. I'm curious, in general, were there certain types of work that the Japanese did and a certain type of work that the Armenians did? Like were there certain industries or type of farming that the Armenians did?

YM: No, no. The farmers were all the same, it's the same type of farming, everybody did the same thing, vineyard and orchards. Mostly vineyards in our area at that time. So it was pretty much the same, same type of farming.

TI: And you mentioned that the Armenians were hardworking. That same kind of description often fits the Japanese farmers. I mean, if you were to compare the farming habits of the Armenians and Japanese, how would you compare them?

YM: I think Japanese farmers were more harder-working, more meticulous, worked on the details a little bit more, their farms produced a better crop because of the labor that was put into it. They didn't mind working on weekends, so it paid off, I think. And I think this is the whole root of the evacuation, because of the Japanese farmers or whoever they were, they just did over and beyond what other people would do. And the Japanese farmers were very, very good, and the pressure was there.

TI: So you're thinking that there was, people were maybe envious or they were jealous of the Japanese farmers and that was one of the causes of the...

YM: Whatever it was, they didn't feel as though they wanted to put in the time, and they felt that we were putting in too much time. We would rent the farm and clean it up, really get all the stuff out of there, the weeds and things that was loaded. And they'd come along and wonder why we're doing all that. But we were looking at the end result, harvest time. And you have better product, that was it, and we didn't mind working. We were brought up that way.

TI: Did your father, did he ever socialize with Armenian farmers?

YM: No, not with the Armenians, but he did socialize a little with Caucasians. We had a very, some very good friends there.

TI: Like in this area of Fowler, did you ever see or witness or hear about, like, interracial type of dating?

YM: Not at that time. Not at that time, no. It was strictly very few, very few. Yes, we did hear of a few who went on to Fresno State College and who married a Caucasian, had a Caucasian wife, but very, very few.

TI: And how about just in general, just race relations between the various groups?

YM: I think Fowler was pretty good in our community. We hear, we hear many of the horror stories in other cities, but I think Fowler was very, very good. Farming community, everybody minded their own business until the war broke out.

TI: Okay, and we'll get to that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Again, before the war now, just the Japanese community, I'm trying to get a sense of the community events, whether they were picnics or special events that the Japanese community...

YM: Yes, we, they used to have an annual picnic, went some location up by the river somewhere. And that was an annual event, but it wasn't really a big event. I think they stuck pretty much close to the group that they were associating with, and it didn't get too much involved in community type of things.

TI: Like this annual picnic, who would sponsor it?

YM: It was the community, it's the parents that got together and decided to go.

TI: And can you describe what would happen at these community picnics?

YM: Oh, they'd have the typical races and stuff, let the kids run around, let out some steam.

TI: Good, okay.

YM: Stay out of trouble.

TI: Other memories of growing up in Fowler? Any stories about you and your brothers that you can remember?

YM: Well, we did a lot of hunting. We had a rifle and shotgun, and we went out shooting jackrabbits and stuff, which, of course, we don't like to talk about now, but that was part of farm life. Hunting was part of farm life. And we went swimming, of course, into the canal, which was in the farm itself, running through the farm itself. So we would go swimming, which required no bathing trunks. [Laughs] It was a private, private pool. So that was our way of spending the summer. It was a carefree summer.

TI: So you mentioned earlier, so it sounded like a, yeah, like a rich childhood, swimming, outdoors, and you mentioned the hunting. But you said it maybe isn't correct to talk about the hunting. Why do you think that's the case, where hunting is viewed as something you don't want to talk about as much?

YM: I don't know. There seems, it seems like some people feel as though killing another animal or another bird is not the thing to do. We found that here in Minnesota, the people, friends that we have, they hate to hear things like that. But in California as we were growing up, we thought nothing of it.

TI: So that might be the difference between more of a farming or rural versus more...

YM: We were brought up with a gun right in the house there. That was part of our entertainment.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Now, during school, like high school, if your wife was here and I asked her, "So what kind of student was Yosh?" 'cause she was in the same class, what would she say?

YM: Well, I don't think she would say anything. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Why is that?

YM: I wasn't a top student. I had grades, good grades, but not the honor roll type. I was too involved in other things. I liked to get involved with basketball and track and things like that. And my grades were good. I was a "B" average grade. Never pulled straight "A's" like my brothers and she did. [Laughs] But I think I did all right. I don't want to boast about it.

TI: Well, it sounds like you enjoyed sports.

YM: I enjoyed activities more, I was involved in more. I belonged to, we belonged to a Presbyterian church and Sunday school (...), so a lot of our class, my classmates, I knew before I went to high school. So made my life at high school really an easy entry into high school, 'cause I had friends there. So many people would come in for the first time and they don't really know anybody, but I had quite a few people who were quite active in school. So I was involved a little more in the class activities.

TI: And did you get involved in organized sports?

YM: I played basketball, which is, doesn't compare with basketball now. We're talking about early '30s. And we were just discussing that the other night. The basketball that we played is not basketball now. And the basketball that my wife played is not basketball either, which was limited to a certain part of the court and you couldn't move onto the other part. So this is altogether different sport now. Yes, I was involved in basketball since freshman year. We had, we had, in our school, we had three division, C... A, B and C, A was the varsity and middleweight and lightweight. And so you start with C class. We played the regular league games that the A, the varsity played, we'd all travel to the same school. And C game was first, and the B game and the varsity would play. So it was a regular league game. And had championship playoffs and things like that.

TI: And so what level did you play?

YM: I played the C and B. I played in the C, and then I moved up to the B. So that was my basketball.

TI: And generally when you played other teams, were there other Japanese on the teams?

YM: Yes, yes. And most of the schools around there, smaller school, we were in the smaller school league. Unless in football they would go into county playoff or something like that. My brother Art played football, and he was, got a write up in Fresno Bee, which was the main paper in Fresno area, they played Fresno county, Fresno High School, which was the large high school for, into the county playoffs. And the next day, he had a write up in the Fresno Bee, "Ninety-pound halfback from Fowler." [Laughs] Ninety-pound halfback, I think he weighed a hundred pounds. But they called him a ninety-pound halfback.

TI: Well, it was probably a hundred pounds with all his gear on. [Laughs] That's interesting. So it sounds like you and your brothers were pretty good athletes, I mean, you enjoyed...

YM: We weren't good, but we enjoyed it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So you, what year did you graduate?

YM: 1936.

TI: And so you're a graduate in 1936, what do you do after you graduate?

YM: After I graduated, I worked on the farm. I had a brother who was going to the University of California.

TI: And was that Art?

YM: Art, Art was in University of California in architectural, and in those days, it was a five-year course. Not the four year as it is now, five years. So the plan was that he would go to school and he would finish, and then on down the line, and I would get my chance to go to school. And in the meantime, my brother Herb, who was only a year behind, but he was, graduated same year as my brother Art because he skipped a grade. And he worked on the farm for a couple of years and then he went to Fresno State. Which meant that we had two going to school at that time. And somebody had to work the farm, we needed the income.

TI: And so it was because of the, I guess, the economics, your family could only afford --

YM: One, originally one at a time, but then we had two because Fresno State was the local school, so commuting to school. Art was in Berkeley, California, which required a little bit more. But it was the family, the way we did things in the family. And eventually Art stayed out of school for a year or two and helped on the farm while Herb was going to school. And then he went back to school. And then my sister who graduated from high school, nothing for her to do on the farm, so she started Fresno State. So I was still waiting my turn. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, so how did that make you feel? That your older brothers got to go to college fairly, fairly quickly, and then your younger sister joined and then you worked the farm?

YM: We didn't, really didn't bother me too much because I figured somebody had to do it. And I figured my time was coming. But matter of fact, my courses in high school was more in the agricultural. And I had, we went to a pruning contest, and I won the pruning contest, county pruning contest. And that's when I got my A-plus. [Laughs] So that was the lone A-plus that I got. But anyway, I had planned on going to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I had hoped, that was my hope.

TI: And did you ever have these discussions with your father or your mother about, kind of, waiting and your turn would be coming? How did you kind of know all this?

YM: I think I took that quite well. I never pressed them for it. I figured that's something we had to do. But I know my ag. teacher, who really introduced me to Cal Poly, eventually he moved to Fresno State, to teach at Fresno State. And when I met him one day, he said, "Well, consider Fresno State because we have a good Ag. Department." He knew, he said, "I know you were talking to Cal Poly, but why not Fresno State? But I never got there, war broke out.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Yeah, so let's talk about that. So December 7, 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

YM: It was a bad day. It was an unbelievable day. We happened to be at this Japanese school, not in class, but just enjoying ourselves, get together, playing table tennis and stuff like that. We heard about it, couldn't believe it.

TI: And when you say you heard about it, couldn't believe it, what were, do you recall any of the discussions or what people were thinking or what you were feeling?

YM: Well, we had a brother in the army. Herb was one of the early ones inducted from Fowler. He was already serving in the army, and he was at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. And naturally we worried about what's gonna happen to him because he was in the army. But the big, the big thing is the propaganda was so heavy, and all of a sudden, the people that we knew were different. Well, let me back it up a little bit. Many of the people that we had in our area were former dustbowl people who came in from Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee and so forth. And when they moved into our neighborhood, I still remember my mother fixing up beans, rice, flour, eggs, "Take it over to Caudle family who moved in from Missouri," who had, she felt had nothing, she felt so sorry for them. So I still remember taking a bag full of stuff over there, basket full of stuff over there. And these were the people eventually who had, all of a sudden had a chance to, like, Fred Caudle, who we helped, said, "You're lucky, you don't have to work anymore." This is the attitude that they had. So things changed in a hurry.

TI: And so you felt that after the war, these people that you thought of as neighbors and some as friends...

YM: They weren't all that way, but there were some, yes.

TI: Were there any other examples that you can recall that gave you a sense that people had changed and the way they felt about Japanese?

YM: Yes. One person that we thought we knew quite well referred to us as a "Jap." This is something that appeared in the paper over and over and over, so they picked it up. Up until then, we thought they were a good friend of ours, but all of a sudden, far as they were concerned, we were "Japs." Well, that's the way it went. Even the Armenians, some of the Armenian people that we knew quite well suddenly changed, too. And I think many of that was they all of a sudden found that they had a chance to profit in a way. Because we had to, they knew we had to abandon everything, and all of a sudden everybody wanted this and everybody wanted that. I know one of my friends, one neighbor wanted the tractor that we had. He said, "Leave the tractor with me, we'll take care of it. Who knows what the future is?" So I sold it, the full package to somebody that I knew quite well, the equipment and all for a thousand dollars. And he said, "Well, are you sure you're gonna let me have it for a thousand?" I said, "Yes, fine."

TI: And what was that, that equipment worth when you sold it for a thousand?

YM: It was worth at least twice that. In those days, of course, thousand dollars was a lot of money. We sold our car for 185 dollars to somebody. We left a lot of things behind, of course.

TI: Well, so I was going to ask, what about that family that owned the property? Were they still living in --

YM: No, they were retired, living in town. They rented it out to another person. And all they had to do was harvest. I had everything all set for harvest. Everything was ready to be harvested within about three weeks, and we had to leave it behind. Government said twenty dollars an acre, which I don't know how they found that figure. And the owner of the property said, "Well, we'll give you twenty-three," so I got three dollars an acre extra. [Laughs]

TI: So explain that to me again. Twenty dollars an acre --

YM: That was, the government set the price of twenty dollars an acre would be a fair price for settlement. I don't know where they reached that figure.

TI: And then the owner said twenty-three.

YM: Twenty-three, she added the three dollars to it. She thought she was doing me a favor, which she was, of course. She meant well.

TI: And so you were paid twenty-three dollars an acre by the...

YM: I had sixty acres. Forty acres from one sister and (twenty) acres from another sister. So a total of sixty acres, well, that was it.

TI: So how did you feel about this? Here you had worked all year...

YM: Bitter.

TI: You're reaching your harvest time, and you have to just give this up now.

YM: Bitter, yeah. It was a bitter pill, because we knew. We knew what the thing was worth. But that was the least of our worries at the time. We're looking ahead as to what's happening in the future and so forth.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So at this point, were you pretty much running the farm? Were you kind of in charge?

YM: Yes, yes. I was running that particular farm. We were renting another farm, but we gave that up just a year before that and moved back to where I was born. And it was a case of cutting back because of the war (...). And it was the right choice, I think.

TI: And during this time, I get a sense that you were quite good at farming, you were kind of growing and expanding the acreage. Were you reaching the point where you were thinking of buying land on your own and expanding that way?

YM: No, I wasn't. I was still thinking about Cal Poly. [Laughs] But in the meantime, of course, with the evacuation, all that fell through. And my wife and I, of course, we were dating, and we decided to get married because her family... rumors were flying, and everybody was going in a different direction. Her sister, her boyfriend was in Fresno Assembly Center. So she went to Fresno assembly center to marry him.

TI: This is your wife's sister.

YM: My wife's sister, Opal, went to Fresno Assembly Center and married Frank Kebo in the assembly center. So she joined him in the assembly center and they moved to, they went on to Jerome, Arkansas.

TI: And so you and your wife --

YM: We had, yeah, we were, we decided to get married because we didn't know where her family would be sent. We couldn't go to Fresno County, city hall to get a marriage license because it was out of the area. We couldn't travel into that area, wrong side of the highway. So we traveled to Tulare County City Hall, Visalia, town of Visalia, which happened to be in Tulare County thirty miles away to apply for marriage license. And we had a three-day waiting period, so we applied for marriage license and made arrangement with the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Brown, in the Presbyterian church in Visalia to marry us. Three days later, my, took my brother and her sister along as witnesses. Went over, picked up the marriage license in Visalia and went to the church as pre-planned with Reverend Brown and got married and that was our wedding. Went home, my sister and my mother cooked up some things, and her folks and my folks got together and that was our wedding party. And the government paid for our honeymoon in Gila, Arizona. [Laughs]

TI: Gila River. But going back in terms of... generally weddings are celebratory, happy events, what was your wedding like under these circumstances? Here, all this uncertainty, I'm just trying to get a sense of kind of the mood of people during this time.

YM: Well, it was a case where everybody was worried about what was coming up and how do we prepare for that and what do we take and so forth. So there was no celebration at all. It was just one of those days that we were married, and next day we started planning for what's next. Matter of fact, that evening when we got back and we were having dinner, this person who was to rent the place, Armenian person who was to rent the place came over and wanted me to help him do something on the farm. And I told him, "Well, not right now." He came later and he said, "Will you please come?" And I guess I was little rough with him, but he couldn't understand why, and that was our wedding day. [Laughs] I should have been in a better mood.

TI: That's a good story to give you a sense of, kind of the pressure, the stresses that were involved.

YM: We had a team of horse and a team of mules, and he couldn't harness it. That was the big problem. [Laughs] He wanted me to come over and harness the mule.

TI: But this was your wedding day.

YM: That was my wedding day. [Laughs] But those were different. Those days were different. Next day, we were planning on what do we take and what do we do with this and what do we do with that. We had people coming through, wanted to buy something, or wanted to not buy, they wanted something. "We'll take care of this, we'll take care of that."

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: During this difficult time, were, do you recall any acts of kindness by people?

YM: Yes, yes. We had some friends who were really good. They're the ones that gave us transportation to the railroad stations and stuff like that with their pickup. Yes, we had some very close friends.

TI: So there were some people who were friends before the war broke out who remained?

YM: Oh, yeah, they remained, remained good friends, yes. And they didn't change, they didn't change. They knew us.

TI: And so things like dropping you off at the assembly point?

YM: Yeah, that was all, of course, they were happy to do that.

TI: Anything else you can recall that really kind of helped you and your family out, an act of kindness?

YM: At that time? We had a high school teacher we used to call Ma and Pa Kellogg. It was, they were from Midwest, it was a couple, elderly couple from Midwest. He was from Ohio and she was from, I believe, Wisconsin. They went to the same school, college, and then married and moved to California. He taught civics and she taught World History and American History and Latin, I believe. And I think he taught World History also, or American History. This couple was, she had many Japanese students, and they were quite outspoken. As I understood it, they bought a retiring, farm for retirement in Parlier, California, which was not too far from Fowler, to retire on. But eventually they sold that because of the pressure. They got too much pressure, they were too outspoken. And they moved to La Jolla, San Diego area. So there were people like that who spoke out.

TI: Oh, so there was a lot of pressure, so these teachers who were essentially neighbors, when they were outspoken, I'm guessing that they were outspoken in terms of, in support of the Japanese community. Because of that support, they were, essentially, forced out of town.

YM: That's right, uh-huh. That's one that I know of. I don't know of any others, but I'm sure there were others who wouldn't dare speak up. But then that was the way things were going.

TI: Do you recall how the Kelloggs spoke out in Fowler?

YM: No, I don't, no I don't, because we were evacuated. But my brother got some letters from them, and this is where I got all the information that they did have problems. And matter of fact, they visited us here in Minnesota after the war. They stopped by when they were out Midwest. So...

TI: And I'm curious, when they stopped by after the war, do you recall anything they said about what happened and did you guys talk about that?

YM: In California?

TI: Yeah, in California.

YM: They were, they didn't want to talk too much about that.

TI: Did they, did they talk about what happened to the Japanese community and what they thought about that?

YM: No, really not. It was a short visit.

TI: So it was just getting together.

YM: Yeah, short visit.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And we're going to pick it up, the earlier, the first part we talked about sort of growing up in Fowler and then after Pearl Harbor and some of the things happening. And before we get to Gila River, one question I had was you mentioned earlier how your wife's sister and her husband were at the Fresno Assembly Center?

YM: Fresno Assembly Center.

TI: And so most Japanese Americans on the West Coast first went to an assembly center, and then to the WRA camp. Whereas you're going directly to Gila River...

YM: We're going directly, yes.

TI: And so why did some people in that area go first to Fresno?

YM: I think it was because Fresno was city... city of Fresno was a good size city in that area. So I think they decided to put them in an assembly center first.

TI: And then, but then there's also, nearby, the Pinedale Assembly Center. So they had that facility, too.

YM: Yeah, we had quite a few people moving in from other area. They were allowed to leave the area, go into what they called a free area. And even in our neighborhood, we had quite a few people that moved in from San Leandro or bay region area (...). So there were quite a few that moved right into Fresno.

TI: Well, so that's why I'm trying to get a sense. So was there a sense that in your area, that perhaps it was going to be a free area that wasn't going to be removed? Or I'm still trying to get a sense of...

YM: Well, at first, they allowed the people to move from the coast area into the inland valley area. So this is why they thought they were going to be okay in central California. So we had quite a few moving into Fresno area. Even on this little farm that we were, we had a vacant house, we had a family move in over there.

TI: And so there's this, sort of, I guess, period of uncertainty, that, whether or not people would be leaving or not. Because the people from the coast would only come to Fresno if they thought they could probably stay there.

YM: They would stay there. They didn't know how long, but at least they would be free for a while, they wouldn't have to go to the camp. So they all chose to move into central Cal. But eventually, of course, we all went to camp together. We had quite a few from bay region area.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: And so when people were being moved into the Fresno Assembly Center and the Pinedale Assembly Center, was it clear that you were also going to be eventually in camp?

YM: Yes, we knew that, we knew that we would be sent somewhere but we didn't know where. Because, of course, rumors were flying, and we didn't know. And when we were told that, our day of evacuation, we didn't even know where we were going. All we knew is we're getting on a certain train in Sanger, California, and that was it. Matter of fact, Sanger, California, is where my wife was born.

TI: Oh, interesting.

YM: So she was born in Sanger, and she left Sanger for Gila.

TI: To prepare for this trip, not really knowing where you were going, what kind of things did you have to do on the farm to get it all ready?

YM: To get it all ready? Well, we had mainly vineyards, so we had to get the vineyard all ready for harvest. Everything was all set, we were just cleaned up, ready for harvest. So all they had to do was go in and pick and dry the fruit, dry the vine, or grapes, and send it to the processing plant. So it was free to take. [Laughs]

TI: And grapes, were these grapes for wine?

YM: No, it was raisin. These were all raisins. What we had was all raisin.

TI: And you mentioned earlier that you were offered twenty-three dollars an acre. If, if you were to harvest that year, how much do you think...

YM: Well, it was, at that time, it was... as I gathered the information later from one of my friends, Caucasian friends who were back, it was $125 an acre, I mean, $125 a ton. And we figured about three and four tons to an acre. So forty percent of that would be ours. It was a 60/40 contract. So that's what our...

TI: So you're talking close to two hundred dollars an acre that you would have netted.

YM: That's right, over two hundred, yeah.

TI: So essentially ten times more than what the government was offering.

YM: Government picked up a figure somewhere, we don't know where. Picked up the figure for people who were left behind.

TI: Yeah, I was curious because now that really helps me understand why you would feel pretty bitter about having to have to leave it in that condition.

YM: Well, they did, eventually they did come up with another, as you know, you heard about another law that came through many, many years later to pay back some of the damages we lost. Of course, that was nothing, too. You put in a claim and they give you part of the claim. That was years later.

TI: And when you said you would keep forty percent of net, so as a farmer, you would have quite a bit of cash at the end of harvest. I mean, you're talking --

YM: Yes, that's what we depended on, end of the year cash harvest. During the year, it was all labor, no income.

TI: Because you would have, just doing the quick math, for sixty acres or so, you're talking over ten thousand dollars that you would have netted from that harvest.

YM: Yeah, if that, if that. Depending on the crop, of course.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So describe from your departure point, I guess, where your wife was born, to Gila River. How did you go from there to Gila River?

YM: To Gila? By train.

TI: And any memories about that train ride?

YM: No. Really, they had... we couldn't see out, they had the curtains down to "protect us," I suppose. [Laughs] That's what they claimed.

TI: And you were traveling with, just your wife or with the family?

YM: No, the whole family. The whole family went. We went together, her family and our family all went together.

TI: And when you say "whole family," I have in my notes that your father...

YM: My father was interned. He was interned earlier. And my brother, one brother was in Missouri, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

TI: So let's go back to your father. I'm curious, at what point was he picked up by the FBI?

YM: He was picked up, I believe it was April of '42. And the two FBI agents came over and just told him, "You're coming with us." No reason given or anything. Matter of fact, I had a brother, I believe my brother was down with the flu or something at the time, my young brother, Taro. And my dad, my mother went into the bedroom to get his, help get his clothes, they shoved her right out of the room, they didn't want her to be in the same room. And they just took him. And at the same time, we noticed that Mr.... one man from Selma was also in the car already picked up at the time, by the FBIs. No reason given, they just come in and took him. And they took him over to Fresno County jail. And then a day later, they brought him back to get some more belongings, and that was the last we saw of him.

TI: And the FBI were picking up people that oftentimes were considered leaders in the community with ties to Japan. Do you know why...

YM: My dad was not tied in any way. He was never an officer of any organization. He was not the type to get up and make speeches. He was a worker. And the only tie that we could figure out was we, the two boys, three boys, took kendo lessons when that was more or less a fad there. And my dad used to go over and watch, and he enjoyed watching kids get together. He used to come over to the Japanese school when the boys were playing, always dropped by, come by with a treat or something for the kids. But he was never an organizer of any kind.

TI: Do you recall if he subscribed to certain magazines or something like that? Japanese magazines, publications?

YM: No. The only thing was the Nichibei language, Japanese-language newspaper, that was it.

TI: That's curious. What you might want to do is get your father's file from the records at the National Archives, his FBI file. And in there, to see why.

YM: Would they have that there?

TI: They might. They'll have notes and things in there, and that might be one way of trying to figure out why he was selected. Because I'm curious now, too, why they would pick him up. So going back to your story, so your dad is picked up by the FBI, do you know where they took him after that?

YM: Well, Fresno County, and then we heard that he was in Missoula, Montana and then back to Sharp Park, San Francisco, and that's where he spent most of his time, Sharp Park, San Francisco. This person that was with him, or picked up at the same time, his name was Misaki, Misaki from (Selma). And then also, there were some friends of his at Sharp Park at the same time.

TI: And I'm sorry, that was located where?

YM: Sharp Park, San Francisco. I think it was in San Francisco, Sharp Park.

TI: So during the war he was there? I'll have to check that.

YM: It was at Sharp Park, anyway.

TI: Okay, I'll check that. Okay, so going back to Gila River, so you're there with your wife, and then you have your mother and most of your siblings, and then your wife's family. How large was your wife's family?

YM: How long were they...

TI: I'm sorry, how large, who was part of your wife's family.

YM: Oh, my wife was the oldest, Kazuko was the oldest. And then Fumi, Fumie, she was two years younger. And Opal, who went to Fresno Assembly Center, she was two years younger than Fumi. They were all two years apart. And then three boys, Hiro was next, they were all two years apart, it was easy to... and George. And the last one was Ben who was the same age as my youngest sister Jane. He was a come-along, and he was the youngest. He was, I believe he was six years old when they went to camp.

TI: So there were a lot of similarities to your family, that they had six children and you were the oldest and Kazuko was the oldest.

YM: Yeah. And Art was the oldest in ours. I was the number three.

TI: Oh, you were number three, that's right. And what was their family name? Your wife's family?

YM: Fujimoto.

TI: Fujimoto, okay, good.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So tell me what Gila River was like. When you first got there, what parts do you remember?

YM: Well, when we first got there, of course, we didn't know where we were. [Laughs] All we knew that it was a desert. But Gila River, it was... I suppose, a shock. Barrack half-finished. We were assigned, my wife and I was assigned to a room to share with a family from San Leandro, California, who happened, one of those that evacuated into central California. They were about fifteen years older than we were. So we had to share a room with them because they couldn't give us the room to ourselves, no two-person room. So we put up sheets and blanket for privacy, and that was our room. And, of course, my family and her family had their own barrack because of the size of the family. And on the second day, our block manager, who was Fred Maruyama from Los Angeles, asked me if I would be his assistant as a block manager. I didn't know what I was getting into, but I said, "Sure, whatever it takes." And from there on, I was working. I was on the government payroll the second day. [Laughs] Sixteen dollars a month.

TI: So describe what a assistant block manager does on a daily basis.

YM: Take care of the block, listen to complaints. Same thing as a block manager would do, but did more legwork than the block manager. Block manager, all he had to do was tell me what to do. But I... we had a lot of complaints about the bathroom, of course, women's bathroom, just a wide open space, bunch of stools, no partition. And shower was the same thing, showerhead off the wall and no partition. And so I found, I met a person from Hawaii who was married to somebody here in the Los Angeles area, I believe, who happened to know something about carpentry. Ernie, Ernest Sasaki was his name, and he had a wife and he had a young daughter. And, of course, he heard lot of complaints about that, too, so he wanted to do something about it. So we got a group together, and I asked him if he would handle that and he said, "Sure." So that night we went out scrounging around for material to build that. And under the fence type of stuff, into the canal, dry canal, government workers, they're very wasteful. New material laying all over the place, so we got some nice material. In the morning we see a stack of material there. We don't ask where it came from or who brought it there, we were happy to see it, they knew what we needed. So we put up the partition. First thing was the barrier in from the door so the door would be protected and can't see in. And then partition down the stools, between the stools. And it was a teamwork, everybody was anxious to do something. So it was nice, no problem.

TI: Now, did the other blocks do similar things?

YM: I would think so. I imagine, I think everybody did, and everybody had the same idea.

TI: So in general, when you first mentioned being assistant block manager, I thought, well, you heard these complaints and that you would write a report, send it to the administration --

YM: I didn't write a report. There was no report written. I just went by sound and feel.

TI: And so it was a very much can-do, we just have to just do it.

YM: That's right, we'd do the best we can. But the biggest complaint was that bathroom right away. And, of course, the second complaint was all the dust coming into their room. Every time we'd... there's about a fourteen-inch crawl space under the building, barracks, and a half-inch space between the planks or the floorboards. So everybody was laying cardboards and newspapers and anything they can find on the floor to keep the dust out. That was another complaint. Nothing we can do about that, because it's building. The other complaint was food. Right away, we started getting complaint on the food. Well, not much you can do about that either because it's provided by the government and you cook what you get and that's it. Some people felt that, right away felt that we're being short-changed. Well, what can you do about that? So those were the two biggest complaint that we were getting. As far as the community is concerned, I think everybody got along real well. I didn't hear anything about noisy parties or anything.

TI: Now, were there some complaints that you got that there was just nothing you could do about, and would have to, perhaps, go to the administration because they could do something about it and that nothing would happen?

YM: You mean a protest of some kind?

TI: Yeah, or there might be...

YM: Organized...

TI: Not even organized, but just something that... oh, I'm not sure what a good one would be. Maybe the need for a school or something, where...

YM: No, we didn't hear too much of that. Actually, I think everything went along quite well. Everybody felt that, well, here we are, let's make the best of it. They didn't like it, but what can you do? So I believe everything went quite well. We had, of course, the government was supposed to issue us with toilet papers and soap and stuff, but of course, none of that really mattered because there wasn't enough anyway. Sears-Roebuck made big business through the catalog.

TI: So how was it with the Issei? Because now it seemed like the Niseis are taking a stronger leadership role and getting things done, whereas prior to that, the Isseis were oftentimes in charge. How did that work...

YM: I think the Isseis more or less depended on the Nisei, at least I feel that way, people that I've dealt with. Isseis were happy to help wherever they can. But I believe they more or less depended on the Niseis. And the Niseis were pretty good, I'd say they were real, really cooperative. Everybody wanted to make it as comfortable as possible. So they had organized sports and stuff like that.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: And then your wife, what kind of job did she have?

YM: She didn't do anything in camp. She was a lady of leisure. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] How was, I thought they encouraged people to have jobs.

YM: Well, she worked, she worked at the canteen for a while, I guess. But actually, she didn't really work that much that I know of. I left early, so she was there a little later, longer, and I think she did some work there.

TI: And so how did she --

YM: She certainly wasn't living on my pension. [Laughs]

TI: So how did she spend her time? It sounded like you were pretty busy doing things.

YM: Well, it was just, I suppose what all the others did, kind of kept to themselves and tried to keep busy. There's not much you can do there. You learn real quickly that this life is a little different. And I think you also learn that complaining isn't going to get you anything.

TI: Right before you went to Gila River you got married to your wife. And so what was it like being at Gila River as a newlywed?

YM: Well, no privacy, absolutely no privacy. We moved in with another couple, nice couple, but you forget about all that, this is it. We don't know what a honeymoon is, really. [Laughs] But that was, you take it in stride.

TI: So everywhere you went, there were other people. There was just like no place to just...

YM: That's right. That's the way it was. We were too busy trying to cope with what we had. But I think the good, I think I was happy that I got involved with being assistant block manager. It kept me busy, and I enjoyed it. I think it was a good thing for me, because I don't like to sit around too long.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Now, did the assistant block managers ever get together with all the block managers?

YM: No, we never did. We never did, we never did.

TI: So your efforts were pretty confined just to the block.

YM: Yes, our block, and take care of whatever we get, that was it. I did that until I decided to go to camouflage factory. I was thinking about working my way out of there somehow, so I signed up... well, the camouflage factory was Camp 2, and quite a few of the people were already working there. Myself and two others got there a little late, so we didn't really get to work on the rack where they can stand and work while they're putting those strips through the netting. We had to work on the ground, and that was a backbreaking type of thing. It wasn't really a good deal.

TI: And you mentioned earlier that you said this was, perhaps, a way to work your way out, meaning that you would learn how to do this?

YM: Well, I thought maybe I can earn some money, a little extra income, thinking eventually I'll be out of there and I'll have some money to go out with. Because when we went to camp, when we took in the, we split the profit and all that, I gave my family what we had, and my wife and I started with practically nothing. We figured we're young, we can make our way. Family needed it more than we did. So we started with practically nothing, and we figured, well, somehow or other we'll cope. And that's worked out.

TI: But going back to this camouflage making, so were they paid more than the regular jobs?

YM: Oh, yes. Regular jobs were nineteen, sixteen, and twelve dollars or something like that. But this camouflage factory, they were making probably maybe three times that amount at the factory. Maybe there were... I don't know what they were making tops, really, but I heard they were making fairly good money compared to what the others were doing.

TI: Now, why was that? How could they make more money?

YM: Because it was run by a private company, California Glass Company or somebody like that that came in there and started up a factory to use the labor there, actually practically free labor. And they set up a place there where they were making these nettings for the army. So it was a company, some outside company that was doing this. So there were, we had people going to Camp 2, working at the camouflage factory. That was the only outside company with any... rest of it was all camp doing, farming and all that.

TI: And from your standpoint and probably others, the pay was two, three times more than what...

YM: Oh, considerably. I don't know what they were making, but considerably better.

TI: And do you have a sense, even though it was considerably more than what you could make in camp, how those wages would compare if that factory were, say, in Fresno?

YM: I don't think it would, I don't think it would compare. I don't think it would compare. I think they were taking advantage of the labor there, and that was it.

TI: Yeah, it seems like it could be easy to exploit people.

YM: Oh, it was the labor, people were anxious to do something. And if they can make extra money or a little more than what they were gonna get, rather than get the twelve dollars a month deal, if they can get maybe four or five times that, why not?

TI: And from the company's standpoint, they can pay a lot more than what people were making in camp, but yet a lot less than what they would have to pay compared to --

YM: Oh, yes, definitely. And I'm sure government must have foot the bill on setting up the place and so forth. It's all a money deal.

TI: Interesting.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And so you did this, and what other memories do you have of Gila River?

YM: Gila River? Well, eventually... well, at one point, my brother from Fort Leonard Wood came over to visit us. That's the first time he came over to visit us in U.S. uniform. And he went over to the PX where the soldiers were stationed, and he went over to the PX and, of course, being a soldier, he can go to the PX and buy whatever he feels like. So he came back with stuff that he bought at PX, which was candy bars and stuff like that. It was kind of an odd situation here. We couldn't go to a certain place, but he can just walk in. Couldn't keep him out. Hard to figure out.

TI: And how did that make you feel when you saw that?

YM: I don't know, it's crazy. I don't know, we just felt that something is wrong. I decided at the first chance, that I didn't enroll in any school, but that's why when this NYA deal come along, I was so quick to sign up, chance to get out. So when I heard about that NYA person coming in, representative coming over signing up people for NYA training, I signed up. I didn't know what I was getting into.

TI: So this NYA is the National Youth Administration.

YM: National Youth Authority.

TI: Authority.

YM: Authority, I believe. And they were to train, take you, send you to a place and train you for war work of some kind and find you a job.

TI: So this was a federal program to train youth to help the war effort.

YM: That's right.

TI: Federally funded, and then gets you into these needed positions to help the war effort. And so they came to the camp to recruit young men.

YM: That's right.

TI: And so --

YM: The age limit was twenty three. I was twenty-four, but I signed up. I asked him and he said, "Okay," he said, "Yeah, sure," so I signed up. So I was the daddy of the bunch. [Laughs]

TI: And what was it about the NYA that was so appealing to you?

YM: Getting out of the camp. That was the sole reason I wanted to go. So I signed up, I went back and told my wife that I signed up to go to NYA training center in Shakopee, Minnesota. And she said, "Where's that?" I said, "I don't know." [Laughs]

TI: But it's out of the camp, so that was...

YM: It was out of the camp. And when I came out here, I found out it was just a little, little burg outside of Minneapolis, or the Twin Cities. It was a regular, like a CCC camp, that little tiny barracks, bunkbeds, and classrooms. So that was it.

TI: And how many other youth were there when you showed up?

YM: Well, there were between sixty and seventy of us Japanese Americans from different camps. Not strictly one camp, all the other camps. And then I think we outnumbered, outnumbered the other kids over there. And they all tried to enroll in different area, machine shop, drafting, whatever they wanted to do, foundry work, pattern making. But everything had to do with the factory, so it was quite limited. But we came in, my group came in from Gila, we come in on a Saturday. We got bumped, we got bumped in Santa Fe, I believe it was. We spent eight hours until the next train or next ride. So we got into St. Paul, and there was a van that they sent out to pick us up. Went over to Shakopee, that was a Saturday. Sunday we settled, Monday we went to class to register, and Monday noon they called us, all the Niseis in and told us outright that, "As of noon today, your enrollment here is terminated." Period, that's it.

TI: Do you recall who gave you that message?

YM: The director, that was his order.

TI: And when he said that, do you recall his mood when he said it? Was he...

YM: Well, he just kind of, he had a written memo, and he mentioned that. And he said, "You're terminated. And we will provide rides for you into Minneapolis or St. Paul, find a place to live." And not a sound. Nobody spoke up, not a sound. Everybody was just silent. And they said, "If you can't find a place, Baptist Mission has a lodging over at Medicine Lake, Minnesota, would put you up temporarily, give you lodging." If you can't find a place, that was it.

TI: So when the director was up there and he made this announcement...

YM: He resigned the next, next day from what I understood. He resigned the next day, and there was a different person there when we got our transportation in to the city. He quit, he just quit. So it was hard for him. He felt that it was not right. But another person that came over, he took over.

TI: Going back to that moment when the director first announced it, do you recall what you were thinking or feeling when that happened?

YM: No, he didn't really, didn't give himself away at all.

TI: Or, I'm sorry. The question was how you felt when you...

YM: How I felt? We couldn't believe it. We just got there. We were recruited and we just got there, and now they're saying we're terminated. Where do we go? We're in a strange place, what do we do?

TI: Do you recall any, like, physical sensations like a pit in your stomach or anything?

YM: Oh, I'm sure everybody had the same feeling, they were just numb. They didn't know what to say. It was dead silent, dead silent. Nobody spoke up. I think I was the only one, I really don't recall what I said. I said, "I think this is a bummer," or something, I don't remember what it was. Nobody else spoke up.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Now you mentioned earlier that you were, you called yourself almost the daddy of the group, the oldest in the group. And so after this announcement was done and you guys have a chance to talk, did people, what did people do?

YM: They all, they all decided, well, okay, we'll find a place. And I told them that I was going to go into Minneapolis, I don't know why. I didn't know one city from another, but I did know that Minneapolis had a WRA office in Minneapolis. So I figured, I'll go into Minneapolis and I'll get some help there somehow. So I told some of the people there that I'm going into Minneapolis to look around. And a lot of them, many of them I don't think even tried. I think they went directly to the lodging over at Medicine Lake because they were in no mood to make any decision. So James Katayama, who was from my hometown, he was only eighteen years old, he was the youngster. And he says, "Yosh," he says, "I'm going to go with you." Well, I'd known him ever since he was a little child. Matter of fact, he lost his father in a farm accident when he was about ten years old. So he's been more or less (...) the big man of the family. So we went into Minneapolis (...). They dropped us off on Nicolette Avenue right downtown, Sixth and Nicolette. Got on a streetcar, I showed one lady, one young lady the address, WRA office address, and said, "Where is this?" And she said, "Next block." [Laughs] "Get off on the next block." She was very good, she told me how to get there, walk over two blocks and stay on Marqute Avenue. Or one block I guess it was. So we found the WRA office. There was a person by the name of Clement White that was running the office, very nice person, and he had a Nisei, he had a Nisei secretary there. I don't remember, I think her name was Kato, but I don't remember the rest of it.

TI: And what was their reaction when they heard what happened to you and the others?

YM: They had already heard about it, they were expecting us. At least, I gathered that. And so we used their phone, looked through the newspaper, and found all the listings there, all kinds of listing. Room for rent, room for rent, room and board for rent. So I started calling.

TI: But then when room and board for rent, I mean, you mentioned earlier how you really didn't have any money and this was a way to get out and perhaps get trained. And so what would you do for...

YM: Uh-huh, right. Well, I had a little pocket money, enough to carry me for a while. I don't know about James, but I figured I can get by for a while. But we made phone calls, I made phone calls. And I told them exactly who I was because I didn't want to make a trip over somewhere, taking a streetcar, not knowing the city, and being refused. Because I was half expecting to be, get refusals. And good thing I did, because the phone calls that I made, they weren't receptive. Some of them said, "Oh, yes, we have a nice room to rent," and so forth, but as the story went on, as I told 'em who I was, they said, "Well, I'd have to check with my husband and my husband is working." Or some of them would say, "Well, I think my husband has just rented it," or something like that. Which was good, instead of running over there.

TI: And do you have a sense, like if you made, like, five phone calls...

YM: I made about, I made about... yes, I made about five phone calls. On the fifth one, on the fifth one, I happened to call a north Minneapolis address. And she says, "Oh, yes, we have a room." I told her who I was, she says, "Come right over." And she told me exactly how to get there, what streetcar to take and so forth. I found out later that she was a French lady with a German husband. And this German husband of hers happened to be a streetcar conductor, so they knew the streetcar routes and so forth, ins and outs of that. So she gave me the direction to get there, and that's where we found a room.

TI: And so you went there with James?

YM: James. And Howard Ogawa went along with us. He wanted to know if he can tag along, I said, "Sure," but I said, "They have room for two, but I don't know about you." But he went along. And yes, we got a room. She was very cordial. And Howard says, "Well, you have anybody else around here that would rent to me?" And she said, "Well, I have an attic space, attic room. Elderly retired person had a bed up there, you can go up and see." Howard, of course, went up, one look, "Yeah, I'll stay." [Laughs] So he took the room. So we, all three of us stayed there.

TI: Now, the three of you -- and I'm not sure exactly when it happened -- are featured in a newspaper article.

YM: Oh, yes.

TI: And so how did that come about?

YM: Well, we were there for about a week. And all of a sudden we have, we find out that the newspaper people are coming over here. Newspaper people, we haven't done anything. But then we found out that they wanted an article on us, and that's when they interviewed us. And at the same time, they sent photographers over at Medicine Lake to get some story over there, the rest of the people who were staying there. And this is when they come out with that article, "Turned Loose Here." [Laughs] The three of us, turned loose here. Which was not a very... type of introduction I would like to have in the city, "turned loose here."

TI: And what was the reaction to that newspaper article? Did anything happen because of the publicity?

YM: I think more of the people in the neighborhood found out who was living there. But no, north Minneapolis at the time was a Jewish community. And I think because of the Jewish community, it was much easier for us to move in. So we had no problem, at least nothing towards us that we can... I'm sure everybody knew who we were. And matter of fact, we had one lady who came often who belonged to an organization called "Navy Mothers." She had a son in the navy, but she was really nice, nice as can be. There were quite a few people. I met the people who were members of Presbyterian church in that area. We had no problem.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So in general, if you had to compare Fowler, California, with Minneapolis, Minnesota, during this time period in terms of treatment towards Japanese Americans, how would you compare the two?

YM: Well, I think the difference would be that we stuck pretty much to ourselves. We didn't...

TI: In Minneapolis?

YM: In Minneapolis. I think it's because of who we were, and we didn't want to create any type of... we didn't want to disturb any neighborhood or anything, we didn't want anybody to start any rumors or anything. Tried to keep it quiet and look for a job, that was our main goal, to find some employment of some kind.

TI: So what you're saying, I think, is in Minneapolis, the Niseis were maybe less visible than when they were on the West Coast. So there were fewer problems or fewer...

YM: I'd say that except for the publicity that we got, yes. But of course, there were people who, the government did a pretty good job of pushing the issue.

TI: Now, were there any incidences of people maybe discriminating or showing that they disliked Japanese towards you?

YM: Yes, oh, yes. When I was looking for employment, it was very clear that they weren't gonna hire me because of who I was. I couldn't find employment, because I'd tell them who I was and so forth. But some places where I applied, they'd say, "Well, we'll call you," never hear from them. "Fill out this application, we'll call you." Here they have, they're desperate for workers, but they're afraid to hire you. So I decided to enroll at the Dunwoody Institute, which was a school that would train for war work in different types of subjects. And so I went over there and I figured, "Well, the best place would probably be some factory, I'll take up machine shop," so I went there. Got a job as a janitor, part-time job, thirty-five cents an hour mopping the chemistry department floor. And even there I learned a lesson doing that. I was mopping the floor, pushing the mop back and forth, and the supervisor came and says, "Oh, no, no. This is the way you mop the floor," and he grabbed the mop and he swung it around like they do on the deck of a ship, covering about eight foot at a time. [Laughs] And here I was doing back and forth about two feet at a time. So I learned a lesson.

TI: So was this time period pretty discouraging for you? Because you had first come thinking you were gonna get trained by the NYA, and then...

YM: Well, no, I was hopeful that I would get some sort of a training and looking ahead. Matter of fact, I think I did a pretty good job over there because I was promoted as a janitor. I went around, they gave me a cart to push around to empty out wastepaper baskets, which was much better than mopping the floor. So that was an improvement. Same pay. But anyway, at the school there, I was there for a short period. I found employment, so I told my (shop) instructor that I was leaving, and he says, "Well, boy, nobody left this place that soon." But I had a chance to go to work, north Minneapolis, person by the name of Roy A. Clapp, who had a small factory who was doing war work. Making dies, what they call dies to, for Twin City arsenal. They had a big arsenal here at Arden Hills, northwest of here. And they said it was to be used for loading gunpowders in 50-caliber shells. So it had to have a high polish on it and so forth. So I did that, and they were on incentive, but I wasn't on incentive. And the work I was putting out, of course, I didn't know any better, I was putting out work twice as fast as the rest of 'em. And the people were after the inspector, telling him, "Well, you're passing, you're doing something different here. How come his gets passed and mine don't get passed?" Well, I don't know, I was just putting it out faster. I found different ways, different than what they were doing.

TI: And so they would tell you how to do it, but then you would change it?

YM: I changed it, I did it on my own. Got a better result. And they wanted me on their incentive list to boost their profit. But my employer said, "No, he's going to be doing something else." So he had already made up his mind that I would not be on that. So he spent Saturdays with me on other things. I think he thought he'd use me for a different, more pattern making and prototypes and things like that.

TI: So more advanced work than the other people?

YM: Yes, without the experience. I didn't know why, but I didn't have the experience.

TI: But he saw something in terms of aptitude.

YM: He felt confidence that I can do it, I suppose.

TI: So while you're getting these jobs, what happened to, like, James and Howard and the other people who went to the NYA?

YM: James, James Katayama went to Rosacker, who had a floral operation, greenhouse. And went over there and worked as what they call a houseboy at the time. Taking care of a younger child and working around the home there, getting room and board and small change. He went over there, and Howard went to work for one denture outfit making dentures. He found a job. So they were employed elsewhere. And James eventually got a job with Munsingware (Co).

TI: And so eventually it sounds like the people who came for the NYA program were able to get jobs.

YM: Get a job, yes, we got a job. It was not easy, didn't come right away, but we got a job.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: And so you're now in Minneapolis working, what about your wife?

YM: She's still in camp waiting.

TI: Waiting for you to get settled a little bit?

YM: When I -- this is the thing. When I left camp, I left her behind. I come over here and finally find an apartment, got her over here, and the army drafts me and I left her behind again. [Laughs] So every time she catches up with me, I'm gone. But yes, I found a place, finally found a place to live, and the person that would rent was a Swiss lady with a Greek husband. The Scandinavians just wouldn't rent to me for whatever reason, reading the newspaper, I guess. But so north Minneapolis again, we found a place and I sent for her.

TI: And how difficult was it to find this place? When you say...

YM: Oh, this was something else. My, the lady who owned the place where I was room and boarding, she says, "Well, around the corner here is a duplex. Upper floor, go over there and check it out." So I went over there and this lady looked at me, big blond lady, and she just told me, "I'm not renting to a Jap." She spit in my face. So I walked away and went back to my apartment, my room. As I walked into the house, Mrs. Nagle, who was the lady, she says, "Well, how did it go?" her usual way. And I said, "I didn't get it," and I walked right up the stairs to the room. I didn't want to tell her, because I know her, she would go over there and raise holy heck, and I didn't want newspaper or anybody to get involved. I had enough of that. So I didn't tell her. I didn't tell anybody what happened, nobody. I didn't even tell my family. I didn't tell my family about that until years and years and years later. I didn't walk to talk about the humiliation, it just... it was terrible. So that's one thing that I never, never discussed to anybody, even my wife. Didn't tell her until years later. I didn't want to talk about it. So experiences like that, many places I got shut down, shot down, but you go with it.

TI: Well, thank you for sharing that story. I know it was a painful...

YM: It was the kind of thing that you wouldn't want to go through. You hear about it once in a while, but you didn't think it actually happens. But it's things that you go through and you live with it, you forget it. You keep it to yourself, but you don't share it with other people.

TI: Yeah, I'm not sure if you ever forget something like that.

YM: No, you can't forget it, I can still see her face. You can't forget those things, but it happens. I know when I started working, one of the place, I was a "Jap scab" because I wouldn't join the union. And I went through hell over there, too.

TI: And how do you, how do you cope with all that? I mean, over and over again, these things happened to you...

YM: You stomach it and you go on. And it's no use creating a scene because it isn't going to help. When I went to work for one company, the supervisor there went around telling everybody, "How would you like to work with a Jap boy?" He went around and told the workers that. So they expected, they knew that I was coming. And I went there as a tool and die man there to upgrade their equipment. I had experience in drafting and all that, so I got on the board and I would change some of the things and lay it out. I had one drawing all practically completed, and I went out to lunch and I went back and it was just ruined. Scrawled all over the thing. I knew when I walked in that there would be ten, fifteen different sets of eyes looking through the window to see my reaction to that. I just took the paper off, put a new paper, sat down and started all over. I think I disappointed a lot of people because I didn't show any outright emotion. But why? Why do it? That's what they wanted.

TI: But inside, while this was happening, what were you feeling and thinking?

YM: Well, it didn't surprise me. It didn't surprise me. Because they've already labeled me as a "Jap scab" because I wouldn't join the union. I didn't want to get tied down to certain jobs and that's it. So I was trying to look ahead to what I'm trying to do ahead, not get tied down and not be limited to what I'm going to do. That's me, I'm a freelancer. [Laughs] Independent. This is why I get in trouble.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

YM: While, after I found a job, finally found a job, I had an appendicitis attack. And I didn't know where I should be going, so I called Miss Swanson, Virginia Swanson who was with the Baptist Union, and she made arrangements for me to go to Midway Hospital and have surgery. Dr. George Earl was my surgeon, who eventually happened to be the surgeon for my dad as well, years later. Anyway, at that time, my landlady, or the homeowner, told me, "Guess who called?" And I said, "Who?" She says, "Herb." I said, "Herb who?" I was kind of rolling around, stomach problem. She said, "Your brother." And he was in, as far as I was concerned, he was in Lincoln, Nebraska. She says, "He just came in to Minneapolis, Sanford Hall, University of Minnesota engineering course, ASTP." So he came over. And so when I went into the hospital, I had escort from my brother, Herb, who was in his army uniform, and Virginia Swanson, Ms. Swanson. So they escorted me into the hospital.

TI: So it worked out really well. Your brother came just in time.

YM: He came, it's just amazing how things worked out. And he came just in time. He says, "You have any money?" I said, "No." [Laughs] He says, "I'll give you thirty-five bucks." I still owe him the thirty-five dollars. He's gone now, so I don't have to pay, I guess. But anyway, after the surgery, after the surgery while I was in the hospital, we had, all the nurses in that area, curiosity got the best of them. I had a really wonderful nurse by the name of Marian Lindberg, and she was really a nice person. She happened to be, she told me she was with the Baptist church. But Marian Lindberg was my nurse, and word got around that I was there. I had ice water changed every fifteen minutes, so that my roommate, person by the name of Barnes... matter of fact, he was happy because he met a nurse there by the name of Hoyt, Nurse Hoyt, and they got along pretty good so my roommate was happy. So we were treated royally.

TI: And so what was it that...

YM: Midway Hospital in St. Paul.

TI: Yeah, but why did the nurses, all the nurses want to come by? You said you were...

YM: Because there was an "alien" there. [Laughs] Because they heard that I was there, and I was not a Scandinavian.

TI: Oh, because you were different. You were Japanese American, they were just curious.

YM: We were somebody at war. And the publicity again, of course, all that.

TI: Did people ever confuse you with the enemy? Did they think that you were, like, the Japanese side versus being an American?

YM: I don't know how they felt. I think they were all just curious what I look like, or who am I and so forth. They found out that I got along with everybody. And I don't think I... the nurses were really nice, so why complain? So that was my, my hospital visit. But it worked out real good, I'd say.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Okay, so let's go back to being drafted. And so you were drafted, where do you go?

YM: Yes, that was after my wife joined me here in Minneapolis. And after she got here, here I'm finally settled, she's settled, and I get a notice, "Report for draft physical." So I went to the armory and they took me over to Fort Snelling and I passed the physical July 1st. And he said, the person over there in charge looked at me and said, "We're sending you home, go back to your job." I told them, "I just quit my job to get in, go over here for the physical." And he said, "Well, we don't know where to put you, so go on back to your job." I said, "Okay, so I went back to work." I called my boss and my employer and told them that they were sending me home, can he use me? He said, "Sure, come back, we want you." So I went back to work. And a month later I get a draft notice again, "Report for draft." So that's when I decided, well, okay, then I will volunteer for Camp Savage MISL. I didn't want to go to Europe with the 442nd, I'll take a chance in the Pacific. So that's when I settled for MISL.

TI: Explain your decision of wanting to go to Pacific versus Europe. What was...

YM: We lost quite a few of our friends already in Europe, from hometown friends, people we grew up with were already gone. And the averages weren't good, so I decided this Fort Snelling, or Camp Savage and Fort Snelling would be nine months of school, Japanese language school, military language. And nine months, many things could happen in nine months. So I decided, playing the odds there. So I went to Fort McClellan (for) thirteen weeks of basic training. And while I was at basic training there, towards the end of the training, I had one of my closest friend, Yeichi Hiyama was his name, who I grew up with in school. And practically a neighbor, we worked together, summertime we played together. He was drafted earlier, and he was with the 33rd Battalion and he was going to be shipped to Europe. And for whatever the reason, they called me in to the day room, said, "You have a visitor here." And it was Yeichi, I couldn't believe it. And he was getting ready to ship out. I told him to volunteer. "Let's change it, let's volunteer for Camp Savage, MISL." And he said, "No," he said, "I'm not going to the Pacific, I'm going to go to Europe." In fact, they had a large picture (his father in) a Japanese naval uniform in the living room. And about three months later, he was killed in Italy. It was sad, I got a telegram from my sister, I believe it was, that said that he was killed in action. And I had just seen him, and it was just sad, really sad.

TI: You almost had a, almost like a premonition, wanting him to go to the MISL rather than...

YM: Well, the big thing was I knew what the odds were. There weren't that many being killed in the Pacific as an interpreter. But because there was a fewer number, of course. And chance of being taken prisoners, yes, I think that was in his mind, taken prisoner. But that's the odd that you work against. But you go to Europe, there's bullets, they don't care who you are, you're gone. So he was killed right there. So he didn't listen to me, he's gone. It's pretty sad when you think about all your friends that are gone like that, what the family goes through.

TI: Yeah, 'cause these are young men, just starting their lives.

YM: Yeah, that's right. Matter of fact, (he) just got married.

TI: Did you ever have that conversation with your wife and the dangers of going into the army?

YM: Well, I don't think we really discussed that. Because it was gonna happen, it's gonna happen, and we didn't want to get too... that was something that's unforeseeable, we didn't want to get into that. You figure you're gonna come back.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So let's talk about, so you now go into the language training at Snelling, or Savage...

YM: By the time I (...) finished my basic training, they had moved to Fort Snelling.

TI: Okay, so you're now at Snelling.

YM: Yes. Which was better because the accommodation and all that was much better.

TI: Now, earlier in the interview, you mentioned that you weren't really a very good student at Japanese school back in...

YM: Yes, I wasn't a very good student at Fort Snelling, either. I went in as a PFC after basic, and then they gave me a T-5 rating, which is two stripes and a T, technician rating, and that's where I stayed. I didn't get any promotion. [Laughs] We had, I happened to be in the right class. None of the people in my class went beyond T-5, so that was okay, I was comfortable. We ate the same food, we got shipped out at the same time, but the assignment was different after we shipped out, because we were not capable of interrogating. So we wouldn't be sent into a cave or anywhere to talk to the prisoners.

TI: So at what point of the war, what was the date that you were shipped?

YM: We were shipped out, my timing was just perfect. The war ended as we were getting ready to get shipped out. We shipped out of San Francisco under blackout. We had troop transport engine problem when we were going across. We drifted around in the ocean for about four days, they were trying to get the engine going. And finally, when they got it chugging along, we went to Hawaii. And while they were repairing the ship, the engine, we stayed at Camp Aiea for five days. And my timing was just perfect all the way through, charmed life, finally. And I was in Manila, never went into, never saw combat at all. I didn't have to interrogate any prisoners. My job there, my name came up once for an assignment at one of the islands. I didn't report because I was working as a guard on a dump, and I was gonna use the excuse that I've already got an assignment, which is a dumb way of doing things, but you don't think. [Laughs] But nothing would ever come of it. That's how the army ran. So from Manila I went to Japan, occupied Japan.

TI: And before we go there, I'm just curious, I want to ask you, so the Philippines were occupied by the Japanese military. And so now that the Americans are there, you're Japanese American, how did the Filipinos treat...

YM: Filipinos, my commander or the officer in charge told me, "Watch your back. They don't like you here."

TI: Even though you were American?

YM: Yes, even though we had a uniform. I was guarding this, what they called the dump. It was a supply dump. And you're standing up on top of the pile of cartons covered with tarp, and he comes and he tells me, "Watch your back, they don't like you here." Well, what can you do? You're up there all by yourself. But he says, he comes right out and said, "They don't like you." The thing is, I met one family there, young family, who worked, by then the Japanese had been, had taken over the factories and stuff and they were running the factory. And he said, "My boss was a Matsuura." I thought, "What?" And he saw my name, he said, "My boss was a Matsuura." But it was none of my relatives, but happened to have the same name. But he was, no, I was, we had a really good relationship with him. I had a good relationship.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: You mentioned, now you went to Tokyo after?

YM: Yes, went to Tokyo. And I was assigned to the information section, which is a lobby and visitors lounge and a few other things that goes along with it. So I met quite a few of the Japanese natives who came there to visit. One person in particular was a person by the name of Mr. Hayashi who was with the Central Railroad, Railway. And he sent a limousine over to pick me up and take me over to his house for a dinner. Went to his house for dinner, he had a couple other of his friends there. And while we ate, his wife sat off to one side, didn't join them, (...) sitting off to the side all by herself. I was very uncomfortable. Don't dare say anything, because that's their custom, I guess. And I felt so uncomfortable with her sitting there all by herself watching, supplying drinks, supplying food. It's just unbelievable.

TI: And why was it that he invited you to dinner?

YM: Well, I met him, and he asked me at one point during the conversation, and I said, well, it looks... they were bombed out, Tokyo was bombed out and all that. We were close to the moat and the Imperial Palace area, and the headquarters, MacArthur's headquarters and so forth, the NYK Building. And women, the WACs were stationed across from us in the Keio Building. And we were in the, what they called the Marunouchi area, which was not bombed out, but just beyond that was all leveled out, firebomb. But this person says, mentioned something about planting flowers. So I wrote home and I told my wife, "Can you send us some seed, packets of seed? Some fast growing plants, annuals?" So she sent me a box of seeds, and I gave it to him. That's how he got to know me. He's the one that invited... my immediate supervisor was a provost marshal by the name of Lieutenant Owens. He's the one that invited us to a Kabuki theater. We go to Kabuki theater and I have to have a translator to tell me what's happening. [Laughs] Which was an experience. But I felt, here again, I felt uncomfortable because while the program was going on, here we come marching down the aisle, or not marching, but walking down the aisle, right up to the front where a seat was reserved for us. And we were there for a short period, and here we were leaving while the thing is still going on. It was not right, but that was planned that way. I felt, I felt it was awfully rude to do that, but what can you do? We also were invited to a tea ceremony (by) this person. We went to a tea ceremony, so I took part in the tea ceremony. And of course, we took pictures and so forth. He was supposed to have given me a tape of that, but I never got it because (...) I left Japan before I had a chance to get it. But anyway, they gave us flowers, bouquet of flowers and stuff. And on our way back to our base, our room, we had a jeep problem, so we had to find transportation. (...) Lieutenant Owens gives me the bouquet of flowers, "Here, you can have this." [Laughs] So I found the first Japanese native walking by, and I gave him two bouquets. [Laughs]

TI: That's a good story.

YM: He was happy.

TI: Oh, I bet.

YM: Boy, he was happy. He bowed about ten times, and I thought, "Oh, gee, good. Found somebody that really appreciated this." I wasn't going to go back to the barracks with the flower, and he wasn't either.

TI: That's a good story.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So Yosh, we're starting to run out of time, so I wanted to kind of finish up. So let's get back to Minneapolis, I guess. So you're in Tokyo, and you now return back to Minneapolis?

YM: Minneapolis, uh-huh.

TI: And is your wife still there?

YM: Yes. In the meantime, she had moved from north Minneapolis, she gave her apartment to her family, and her family was living there. I, matter of fact, I went to Kansas City when her folks came out here, because Kansas City had a great big central railway station, huge. And so I asked my lieutenant commander there at Fort Snelling, "I have in-laws coming in from the camp, can I go meet them in Kansas City?" And he says, "Yes, go." So I went. He gave me a pass, so I went over there, here I see them coming off the train, coming into that great big area, looking around, and they saw me. They didn't expect me, but they saw me there. And boy, were they happy. Because military people boarded first, so I got them and we got on the train, got them transportation back without any problems. So you have to do good deeds now and then, I did a few.

TI: And that was your family or your in-laws?

YM: That was my in-laws. Fujimoto family. My mother-in-law, father-in-law, and son.

TI: Good.

YM: One son, baby son, young son.

TI: So let's go to Minneapolis, and so what did you do after the war?

YM: After the war, after the war I went back to work for this person that I had been employed before. And worked on prototypes of different product that he was working on, new product that he was working on, which was fun. But I wanted to get into something larger than that, so I went to work for Warner manufacturing company, which was making decorator tools, competing with Hydes and people who were much, about a hundred times bigger than us. And they knew that we were around, of course, and it was challenging. I thought it would be challenging. But then, of course, all this happened where the supervisor went around and told everybody, "How would you like to work with a Jap boy?" and stuff like that. And it was rough. The first six, seven months was really rough. They wanted me to join the union, I won't join the union because I didn't want to be restricted to certain jobs. So I was a "Jap scab." And okay, I can live with that. I've gone through hell as it was, so it didn't matter. And one day as I was working on this one drawing, he says, "What are you working on?" I told him what I was doing, I gotta improve on this, thing isn't working properly. He said, "Oh, that'll never work," and he walks off. Twenty minutes later, he comes in with the president of the company, the owner of the company and one of the officers, and he says, "I'm having him do this." After he told me it isn't going to work, "I'm having him to do this," and explained what the deal was, and he walked off. This is who I was working for.

TI: That must have been very difficult to be in that situation.

YM: [Laughs] This is why it was rough. But seven months later, he died of leukemia, young fellow, died of leukemia. So they asked me if I would take over some of the responsibility. I told them, "No." Because I said, "You folks thought a world of Stan Olson," and I said, "I'm a different person. I don't think I want to do that." I said, "I don't think I'd be able to fulfill what you think that he was doing." And they talked with me for a while and I said, "Well, I'll try some of the responsibility," and so I took over the factory operation. And little by little, it was a smaller company, responsibility grows, we worked from there.

TI: And you were there for a long time.

YM: I was there for a long time, yes.

TI: And I'm wondering when you look back at that time there, was there anything in particular that stood out in terms of a project or a job that you're really proud of?

YM: Well, we tried to constantly improve on the product, of course, and come up, salesmen would come back and say, "Well, so-and-so's got this, can we improve on this or can we make one like it?" It would be patented, so I'd have to work around the patent, and redesign it so that we can work around the patent and still be able to manufacture at a competitive price. So it was challenging, I liked it, especially with a new product. And running the factory and working, managing the factory was not the best, because you're dealing with a bunch of people who are not too happy at times, they want more money, which is natural. But working with new products, I've always enjoyed it. So eventually, when I retired, I was working more for research and engineering end of it. Thirty-one years with the company. After seven months, I was ready to move on, but thirty-one years.

TI: So Yosh, unfortunately we're out of time. And this has been really good. There were some other questions I had, but I think we pretty much covered all the key things I wanted to do. So thank you so much for doing this.

YM: Well, I'm happy to have met you.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.