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_4-01-0008

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TI: So, good, we talked about your father's side and mother's side, and so let's talk about, now, your father. What was your father's name?

GY: Toshikazu. Toshikazu. But he went by Tom here.

TI: And about when was he born, do you know?

GY: 1920.

TI: Okay. And your mother's name?

GY: Mutsuko Ii. I-I.

TI: And do you know about when she was born?

GY: 1926.

TI: And where was your mother born?

GY: San Jose.

TI: And your father was born?

GY: In Yawatahama, Japan.

TI: Okay, so how was it that your -- okay, got it. So let's talk a little bit about your father first in terms of... so he's born 1920, tell me a little bit about his background in terms of...

GY: Okay. Anyway, my father was born in Japan to actually Kameo Yano's younger sister. And she died when he was just a baby, and he was, he lived in Kameo Yano's house with the ladies, Kameo's sister-in-law and niece, they're very close to us. And when he was, in 1923 or so, there was a Japanese exclusion, not just a Gentleman's Agreement. So my grandfather couldn't bring anybody from Japan unless he did it then. So he decided that he's gonna go back and adopt my dad. And so he went by himself. My grandmother didn't go, she watched the farm and brought my dad back.

TI: Okay. So when your dad was like three or four years old...

GY: Three years old, barely.

TI: Three years old, Kameo, your grandfather, adopted Toshikazu, your father, and then brought him to the United States, okay. So 1923, and they're in, I guess...

GY: They lived in Milpitas.

TI: Milpitas.

GY: They had farms in Milpitas, Overfelt, the Overfelt, there was a brother and sister named Overfelt, and they weren't married, and Overfelt High School, that land, a lot of that land my grandfather rented back in those days. And Edenville, toward where IBM is. So he probably lived in Milpitas, that's where the main house was, in Milpitas.

TI: Okay.

GY: But you know the story, the reason why there were so many farms is they started in Milpitas. And a lot of Japanese farmers were in Milipitas-Alviso. When they got into sweet peas, and they found some good varieties of sweet peas, the sweet peas grown toward IBM, south San Jose, were sweeter because it's hotter there. And also, in Milpitas they also tried prunes, but they couldn't compete with the prunes from the west side because it's warmer, Saratoga, Cupertino.

TI: So it's sweeter over there.

GY: Sweeter here. So they pulled all their trees and went to vegetables and other things. But, so they had to move around, I think to have different things to be competitive.

TI: Okay, good. Anything about your, so let's just go through your father's life. So as a young child, he's in the United States, like in terms of schooling and things...

GY: Yeah. He went to school in San Jose, graduated from San Jose High School, went all the way through school.

TI: So given that he came at such a young age, and the time he came, did most people think he was just a Nisei?

GY: Yeah, I think so. Because once he started going to school, he spoke English. I'm sure that until he went to school, he didn't speak much English. Like myself, I spoke a hybrid, Japanese and English. First grade -- I didn't go to kindergarten -- and when I was put in there, I didn't know my ABCs or anything like that, or the Pledge of Allegiance. I think you sort of, it takes a couple of years. I know I didn't really, I wasn't comfortable with reading until I was, like, in the second grade, I couldn't. And so he probably did the same thing, and a lot of the Japanese did that.

TI: Well, in your case, both parents spoke English, so who raised you as a child?

GY: Well, my mom spoke Japanese mostly, because she was, she was born in San Jose, but she went back to Japan with her parents when she was nine months old. And she went all the way through what they called girl's school, which is like the equivalent of, you graduate like when you're fifteen, fourteen or fifteen. And that was the extent of education for ladies back in Japan in those days. So she spoke Japanese. My dad spoke English, but at home, Japanese.

TI: Okay.

GY: And my... it would be my dad's cousin, another one of Kameo's sister's son, came out here, too, and that's Yoshio Sasaki over there.

TI: Okay. So let me make sure I got all this. You have a very complicated family.

GY: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So your father was born in Japan, but he came as a young boy, and so he essentially grew up kind of like a Nisei and spoke English. Your mother was born in San Jose, but then at nine months --

GY: They went back.

TI: -- goes to Japan and is raised as Japanese and speaks Japanese. Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.