Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Yano Interview
Narrator: George Yano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ygeorge_4-01-0006

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TI: Your grandmother, I forgot to ask, I mean, what was your grandmother's name? In fact, her maiden name all the way back to Japan.

GY: Her maiden name's Abe, and Hisa. I heard that her first name was Tsuru. And, in fact, when we go back to Japan, some of her old -- well, they're not there now -- but the older people used to call her Tsuru. And, but her name was changed to Hisa, and I don't know why, maybe to come here or something. But in that area, there's lots of Abes and Yanos and Kiyohara. And so there's many Abes, but in our area, many of the Abes are relatives.

TI: Okay. And how did your grandfather and grandmother meet?

GY: They are from the same village. It's just like with my mom as well, my grandmother's parents probably said, the parents probably said, "Let's have them get married." And so it was decided. The kids really didn't have a say. So when they told my grandmother, "You're going to America, marry Kameo," the families are... in fact, my grandfather's older brother's wife was an Abe as well. So there was these connections. And she was told to come 1913, and there's a really great story that went with my grandmother, the same year, around May of that year, a group of fifteen fishermen from the village, the next village, got a flat-bottom fishing vessel and sailed it from Majiro or this Ehime village to... well, they were trying to get to Watsonville. Because three of the people of the fifteen had worked in America, made money, went back to Japan, they said, "Okay, let's do it again." And when they wanted to come back, there was a Gentleman's Agreement, exclude by 1913, they couldn't so they bought a fishing vessel. Fifteen of 'em went out, and my grandmother was about to come over to marry my grandfather. And one night when it was dark they came over to her house and said, "We can't talk about it, but we're gonna be leaving for America. When we get there, yoroshiku," take care. So that whole thing happened. And then she was held in Kobe for an eye infection or anything. Back in those days, they... and then when she came, she was held in Angel Island until my grandfather came to pick her up. And my grandfather didn't go to the post office every day. So he didn't go on -- when he got the notice that she's here, he was so excited he ran all the way home, which from Milpitas to where Ranch 99 is, maybe it's only a couple miles. But he ran all the way home and got in his vehicle and went up to pick her up. But she had to wait there, and she was, she told us that she was on the verge of just saying, "Forget it, I'm going back." 'Cause maybe being shipped back is better than waiting for this irresponsible guy to come together. Funny story happened that time.

TI: But then what happened to those thirteen people on the fishing? Did they make it to...

GY: They made it. They made it, and this year, the governor of Ehime prefecture and two mayors and a delegation of, oh, how many were there? There might have been sixty people came. We had a reception up in San Francisco, and they all went up to Point Arena where we built a monument dedicated to those fifteen men, and there's a bronze engraved plaque on there, and the people of Point Arena take really good care of it. Yeah, it's amazing.

TI: Well, it's quite a feat of seamanship to come across on such a...

GY: Yeah, they came across with a compass and water. They said, what they call kannomizu, which is cold weather water, doesn't spoil. So they kept cold winter water, and they put it on, and set sail with rice and everything. And I think in Wakayama or Mie, out there, they stopped once to get provisions, and then they stopped on one of the islands off of Tokyo, and then after that it was go. A compass and just few provisions, flat-bottom boat. But what happened is that the Japanese Current just brought 'em right in. If you did that on a raft, you'd end up in the same place. But they didn't know that, so they thought they had to navigate their way over.

TI: Oh, so partly it was luck. They hit the Japanese Current and just...

GY: Yeah, luck. At the time, other people had been doing this. And there was another ship that was successful, thirteen people. And also, there were people from British Columbia taking a short ride over to try to get into California, because of that Gentleman's Agreement. This is around 1913. But there was a Japanese documentary, an hour documentary made on it, they came over, and I was involved with the filming and all of that, and it was...

TI: But on the other hand, you could view it, I mean, they were essentially illegal immigrants. [Laughs]

GY: That's right. So they were captured, and they said, "You guys did something really special," they gave 'em a big dinner, and the Japanese American group here raised some funds to pay the penalty, fines and all of that and some money to take home, and they were sent back in a ship.

TI: Oh, they were sent back?

GY: They were only here for a few days.

TI: [Laughs] Oh, so they weren't allowed to stay.

GY: No, they were captured. I mean, Point Arena. But the first people that helped them in Point Arena were the Pomo Indians, there was a tribe up there. And when they made landing, and it's hard to find a place to land up there, it's pretty rough. They went up and they found a cornfield, and going through there, this is even written in books. The Pomo Indians took them in and fed them, and then they split up into three groups. But you know they're gonna stand out. And they got captured and sent back.

TI: That's a good story. I've never heard that story. That's a good one. Okay, so back to your grandmother, so your grandfather finally gets there before she leaves to Japan, and then they come back to the San Jose area.

GY: Right.

TI: Okay. And that's around 1913?

GY: 1913, yeah, she came.

TI: And so she's about ten years younger than your grandfather.

GY: Yes, nine or ten, that's correct.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.