Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Richard Onishi Interview
Narrator: Richard Onishi
Interviewer: Kristin Okimoto
Location: San Jose, California
Date: October 25, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-orichard-01

<Begin Segment 1>

KO: This is an interview with Richard Onishi, owner of Onishi Florist, at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 North Fifth Street, San Jose, California, on October 25, 2004. The interview, conducted by Kristin Okimoto, is part of a visual history project called "Lasting Stories: The Resettlement of San Jose Japantown," a collaboration between the Japanese American San Jose Museum and the Densho Project of Seattle, Washington. Thank you, Mr. Onishi, for taking time from work to participate in this interview with us today.


As mentioned, we will be discussing your life history with a focus on the post-World War II resettlement era and the Japanese retail business which you own, Onishi Florist. All right, Mr. Onishi, let's start with your prewar background, with your parents. When did your mother come to the United States?

RO: My mother and I came to the United States from Kauai, Hawaii, in 1936.

KO: And your mother was from what prefecture?

RO: My mother was born in Hawaii, her mother was born in Hiroshima.

KO: Okay. And why did your mother come to the San Jose area?

RO: Well, she wanted to seek a new beginning, so we came to San Jose where she met my stepdad, Mr. Onishi.

KO: And they got married in 1937?

RO: 1937, correct.

KO: Okay. And what occupation was your father?

RO: My stepdad was a gardener, and my mother did domestic work.

KO: And their financial situation at the time?

RO: They were quite poor at that time.

KO: Were they involved with any Japanese organizations?

RO: Before the war, my dad was active with the Buddhist church, and my mother wasn't that active.

KO: And your father's occupation?

RO: He was a gardener by profession, and then after that, he started a nursery.

KO: Did he do some reporting before?

RO: My dad reported for the New World Sun, and then after that he worked for the Hokubei Mainichi. He did this on the side.

KO: And what language did you speak in your home?

RO: I spoke primarily English.

KO: So you, you spoke. Your father?

RO: My father spoke to me in English, and my mother spoke to me in English.

KO: Do you know any Japanese?

RO: Very little.

KO: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KO: Your family shopped and did business in Japantown?

RO: Excuse me?

KO: Did your family shop and do business in Japantown?

RO: Yes.

KO: Did they go to the department store and the bank?

RO: Oh, they used to shop at Dobashis' and Koguras', and they had two candy stores, Toshi's Sweet Shop (operated by Toshi Taketa, Grayson Taketa's dad) and Sakamoto sweet shop. And also they had two pool halls in Japanese town with, one was from Takedas, owned a pool hall, and also the Kawakamis owned a pool hall. That was for recreation.

KO: So did your father visit these establishments?

RO: My father was an avid fisherman.

KO: Where would he fish?

RO: Well, we used to go to Frank's Track and Big Brick, out in the Delta. We used to go almost every weekend, but he was a very avid fisherman, because he's from Tottori-ken in Japan, and that was a fishing village. So I guess it was in his roots. So he just was an avid fisherman.

KO: And you went fishing with him?

RO: I went with him.

KO: What kind of fish did you catch?

RO: My dad went fishing for striped bass in the Delta, and then he used to go fishing on the, on the beach for perch.

KO: Half Moon Bay or Monterey?

RO: Mostly Santa Cruz.

KO: Santa Cruz?

RO: Uh-huh.

KO: So you must be a good fisherman also.

RO: I got so I didn't like it, 'cause I had to go every weekend, and we stayed from sundown to sunset. [Laughs]

KO: That's a long day. Did you say you had a good relationship with your parents?

RO: Very good.

KO: And you're an only child.

RO: Correct. My dad was kind of strict, though.

KO: How so?

RO: Well, it's the old Japanese way, they're very strict.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KO: Can you recall some of the things that you used to do in Japantown? Some of the stores you visited?

RO: Could you repeat that, please?

KO: Can you recall some of the things you used to do in Japantown?

RO: Well, I used to come to Japantown, I used to go to Wesley Methodist Church, and then I used to go to the candy stores and buy things, and then we used to play over here on Sixth Street. It was a, like a junkyard, Markovitz and Fax, and they had a lot of old, large freight cars and metal objects, and we used to go play in there.

KO: And that was allowed?

RO: Well, they didn't like us to go in there, but we used to go in there and play.

KO: Was there a Chinatown there at the time?

RO: There was a large Chinatown that was situated on Sixth Street on the lower end by Taylor Street, and there was also a Chinese temple there, which they demolished.

KO: Was there any interaction between the Chinese and the Japanese community?

RO: The Chinese pretty much stayed to themselves. It was a large brick complex, it really looked like something that belonged in Chinatown.

KO: Was it, did it look walled-off?

RO: No, it was a large brick building, but those people were pretty much to themselves.

KO: Did you have friends that you played with?

RO: Yeah, I played with, Norm Mineta was one of my first friends. I met him when I first came to San Jose, then I went to grammar school with him at Jefferson Elementary School.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KO: How did your father get involved in the nursery business?

RO: Well, he was a gardener, so I think it was pretty natural that he wanted to start a business, so that would be pretty much in his line of work. Gardeners had to be quite knowledgeable about plants and shrubs, so through that evolved his interest in the nursery business.

KO: So he was a fisherman and a gardener, but gardening was more profitable.

RO: Correct.

KO: Okay. So he was able to establish a nursery?

RO: Yeah, he wanted to establish a nursery. But in those days it was very difficult because to get shrubs, we used to go, he used to go to Portland wholesale nursery, and to get begonias, we used to go to Santa Cruz, and the bedding plants, he grew a lot of pansies by himself.

KO: So he had to go a long way to get some stock.


KO: How was your father able to establish the nursery?

RO: My parents wanted to purchase the property, but there was a covenant on the land which stated a non-white could not buy the property. So the McKennas purchased the property and sold it to my parents, that's how they got around the covenant.

KO: And who were the McKennas?

RO: The McKennas were an Irish couple who my dad used to work for. He was an engineer for Union Pacific, and they financed my parents in all their endeavors.

KO: So your father must have really been good friends with Mr. McKenna.

RO: He worked for 'em for quite a while.

KO: As a gardener?

RO: As a gardener, uh-huh.

KO: And do you still keep in touch with them?

RO: Unfortunately they passed away, oh, about thirty years ago.

KO: Did they have any children?

RO: No children.

KO: So once...

RO: But he had a brother. She, Mrs. McKenna had a brother.

KO: Did your father have the same relationship with the brother? A close relationship?

RO: (...) We had a pretty good relationship, but not as good as with Mr. McKenna.

KO: And are they, is the brother still in the area?

RO: He also expired, too.

KO: All right.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KO: Let's talk about World War II, Pearl Harbor specifically. Do you remember where you were when you heard Pearl Harbor was...

RO: I don't have any recollection of where I was at that time, but I do remember where we boarded the train on First Street.

KO: To go where?

RO: To Santa Anita.

KO: Do you remember what you packed in your suitcase to take with you?

RO: Gee, I really don't remember, because it was a pretty sudden thing.

KO: So you just took your essentials.

RO: Yeah, my mother packed everything and then we went to the train.

KO: In Santa Anita, did you stay in...

RO: We stayed in the stables. That's why they sent us to Santa Anita. They put everybody in the stables.

KO: You actually stayed in a stable?

RO: Uh-huh. Correct.

KO: What was that like?

RO: Oh, it's pretty good for a stable. [Laughs]

KO: Did it have straw on the floor?

RO: No, they cleaned it up quite well, but you still could tell it was a horse stable.

KO: Were you comfortable there?

RO: We lived in, we slept on cots, army cots.

KO: So there was some privacy?

RO: There was privacy, you had your own stable.

KO: How long did you stay there?

RO: Our stay at Heart Mountain -- I mean, Santa Anita, was very short. From there they transported us to Heart Mountain.

KO: By train?

RO: By train.

KO: Do you remember anything about the train ride?

RO: I know there, all I remember is there was another family in there with us, and it was a relatively short ride from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain.

KO: And you were about eleven years old?

RO: Ten, ten years old.

KO: And what were your first thoughts when you arrived at Heart Mountain?

RO: Well, kind of mixed feelings. To be uprooted from your home and put in a strange place wasn't that good, but as a kid, you make a lot of friends and we played a lot.

KO: How did your parents feel?

RO: My dad didn't care to stay there, so we tried to move out two times. The first time we moved out, my parents cooked for this ranch, they cooked for all the ranch hands. And then they called us back to Heart Mountain, then we stayed for a while, then my dad said he wanted to move so they let us move to Denver, Colorado.

KO: Did your father have a job in Denver?

RO: No, he didn't have a job, but he did gardening and my mother did domestic.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KO: So you were allowed to leave Heart Mountain as long as you went east. Even though --

RO: Yes. As long as you didn't come west, you can -- if you wanted to get out, they would let you let you get out.

KO: And even though you didn't have a job.

RO: No.

KO: So why do you think he chose Denver?

RO: Oh, we had friends that lived in Brighton, Colorado. They moved from San Jose to Colorado before, so they didn't have to go to camp. So he had friends that lived in Brighton. Brighton was about twenty miles, twenty-five miles from Denver.

KO: So then when you went to... you stayed in Brighton, not necessarily Denver.

RO: Yeah, we lived in Denver, but our, my dad's friends lived in Brighton.

KO: Oh, okay. So you didn't live with them in the beginning, you lived on your own.

RO: Yeah, we bought a house in Denver, my parents did.

KO: And how was your father able to establish his gardening business in Denver?

RO: Oh, he just went... there was a lot of rich people in Denver who could afford gardeners and he went out there and worked for them.

KO: Was there any prejudice toward Japanese?

RO: No. I didn't feel too much prejudice in Denver, but where we lived was primarily blacks and Mexicans. The grammar school I went to in Denver was ninety-seven percent black.

KO: My goodness. And Mr. McKenna was instrumental in helping your father again?

RO: Yes. He shipped my dad's 1937 Dodge pickup to Denver, and my dad used that for gardening.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KO: So you stayed in Denver for two or three years?

RO: Yeah, 'til they allowed us to come back. We came back the first chance we could get. We came back December '44. The war ended in June '45, so we came back about six months before most everyone came back.

KO: That was awful brave of your father.

RO: Yeah, we drove that pickup from Denver to San Jose. We put all of our belongings in the back of the pickup and drove to San Jose.

KO: How long did that take?

RO: God, it must have taken us about three or four days, I guess.

KO: Do you --

RO: We got stuck in the Sierras, I know, 'cause my dad ran through some water and the spark plugs got wet, and we got stalled up there and some hakujin helped us.

KO: So that was kind of a memorable trip back.

RO: Yeah, I remember that 'cause it was kind of cold.

KO: That was December or January, then.

RO: December of '44.

KO: There was, there was snow on the ground?

RO: Yeah. We came through the Sierras.

KO: So when you came back to San Jose, you came back to your house? That the McKennas had kept --

RO: Yeah, the people had moved out. We had tenants in there and they moved out. They knew we were coming back, so they had vacated the house, so we moved into the house.

KO: And you were the first family back into San Jose?

RO: In downtown San Jose, we were the first. I think the Takedas in Alviso were, they were early also. That's the only two families I know of.

KO: And what kind of reception did you receive when you came back?

RO: Lot of animosity. I didn't really care to go to school, but my dad forced me to go to school.

KO: Do you remember any specific incidences at school that were uncomfortable for you?

RO: Well, children tend to mimic their parents, so you get, you'll get a lot of animosity, because Japan was not too popular at that time, and you get a lot of people who call you that three-letter-word, "Jap."

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KO: What were the businesses like in Japantown? Were they basically closed, or were they run by other nationalities?

RO: When we first came back? I think most of these were vacant. Dobashis' and Koguras'.

KO: Were they just closed down for the war?

RO: Well, Dobashi had that old market. The new market wasn't built 'til a lot later, the market they're in currently. That was built after, way after the war.

KO: Where was the first market?

RO: The first market is where the Sugaru restaurant is. That was the first Dobashi Market.

KO: And where is that?

RO: That's in the center of Jackson Street on the south side between Fifth and Sixth.

KO: Okay. And your nursery was...?

RO: When we came back, we had to start from scratch. We had to start from beginning.

KO: And your father worked as a gardener again?

RO: He was a gardener again, then we started the nursery.

KO: What was his clientele like when he came back? Were they Japanese or Caucasian?

RO: He pretty much worked for the same people he worked for before the war.

KO: They remembered him?

RO: Yeah, they, right here off of First Street on Losse Court, right behind the, used to be Sumitomo Bank.

KO: So life was kind of the same for your folks, but not for you.

RO: Yeah, uh-huh.

KO: Okay, so you were in junior high at this time, then, when you came back.

RO: Correct, (yes).

KO: And how soon did the other families start returning?

RO: About six months later, in June, a lot of people came back. There was not too much housing, so when the people came back, they were living in the Buddhist Church. They partitioned off the church and families were living in there. And adjacent to the Buddhist Church was a building, two-story wooden building, they call it a hostel. Used to have Japanese school on the top before the war, but people lived in that when they first came back from camp. Because most people had no place to go, so they lived in that hostel building.

KO: Did you help out some families when they came in?

RO: Yeah, we boarded some people in our house. Takeda, Grayson Takeda, his family, they lived with us for a while 'til they could open up their place on Jackson Street. Dr. Kimura lived with us for a while. He, Dr. Kimura never sent my dad a bill. My dad went to him for twenty years, and he never sent him a bill 'cause my dad helped him when he first came to San Jose.

KO: That's really nice, he was really grateful.

RO: (Yes).

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KO: So you were in junior high at the time, then?

RO: (Yes).

KO: Did you... what were some of the things you did for fun?

RO: Well, I had, I didn't have too many friends 'til most of the Japanese came back. I pretty much stuck to myself, 'cause there was a lot of animosity yet.

KO: Did you have any Caucasian friends that you had from before the war?

RO: There was a few people that stuck up for me when I went to Peter Burnett, and I still remember those people.

KO: Are you still friends today?

RO: Yeah, still friends.

KO: You mentioned before, you won first place in a victory garden contest.

RO: Yeah.

KO: Can you tell me about that?

RO: Okay, I went to junior high school, they had a contest for the best victory garden. In those days, a victory garden was a vegetable garden, so my dad planted the garden. I got first prize, but when I went to the hardware store to pick up my prize, they said they wouldn't give it to a "Jap." So my friends, the McKennas, went there and picked it up for me.

KO: That's nice.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KO: So how soon after arriving back was your father able to establish the nursery?

RO: Oh, I would say about three years after we got back, (...) we used to have a shack for an office for the nursery, and then in 1947, we built that flower shop building. Then in 1958, we built a hall next to the, where the nursery was. We quit the nursery business and built that building, and we used it for a hall. In those days, when Japanese had a wedding, they have China-meshi, and Mandarin Restaurant used to cater the dinners in our hall. We had, they called it Onishi Hall when they first put up that building.

KO: So you were, it was pretty busy. Who, who ran that? Your mother and your father?

RO: I did all the grunt work. I had to put up the tables and take down the tables and put up the chairs and clean it up.

KO: So a lot of your spare time in junior high was spent helping out in the nursery, in the hall.

RO: Yeah, you either had to work in the nursery or my dad always had to do something. I didn't have that much spare time.

KO: So was it basically just your mother and father and you, or did you hire friends or family?

RO: Yeah, they had, at that time, my uncle and aunt came from Hawaii and they worked here for about five years. And they didn't like it 'cause it was too cold, and they went back to Hawaii.

KO: Okay. What was a typical day like for your father?

RO: He'd get up very early.

KO: And go to the flower market?

RO: Well, when he had the nursery, he spent a lot of time picking up shrubs and such, and then he used to grow his own pansies. And then we used to buy a lot of bedding plants from the Neishi Nursery in Oakland. But my dad specialized in pansies and tuberous begonias. They just sell it by the boxes.

KO: Uh-huh. Were most of his clientele Japanese or Caucasian?

RO: Caucasian.

KO: Why do you think there weren't many Japanese clients?

RO: Not too many -- excuse me, could you repeat that, please?

KO: Why were there more Caucasian than Japanese clients, customers?

RO: Japanese weren't too much into planting flowers in their gardens like Caucasians in those days.

KO: So they didn't care that --

RO: The Japanese were barely scraping by in those days, so they didn't have time to plant all these ornamental plants and bedding plants.

KO: So your Caucasian clientele came from all of San Jose, or just Japantown area?

RO: Pretty much in this north side of, north side.

KO: So your mother and father worked in, in the nursery themselves with your help?

RO: Yeah, nurseries are very labor-intensive. Especially in those days, you didn't have all these modern tools, and so it's very labor-intensive.

KO: So what kind of chores were you doing?

RO: Excuse me?

KO: What kind of chores did you do?

RO: Oh, I did all the jobs nobody else would do. I was low, low man on the totem pole, so I pretty much had to do everything my dad told me to do.

KO: Like what was that?

RO: Oh, I used to move the dirt around, 'cause we had a small nursery and had to move the dirt around quite a bit. Dispose the soil, and then I had to, my dad made this one tool where we used to buy these old cans from bakeries, and then you'd have to take the lids off. And my dad invented this thing that's pointed like a "V," and then you would just poke it in and the lid would come right off of those cans. Then we would plant the shrubs in those cans. In those days, you use five-gallon cans and gallon cans and you put all your shrubs and plants in those gallon cans. They didn't have these plastic cans, pots like we do today.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KO: Okay, let's talk about high school. You went to which high school?

RO: San Jose High School.

KO: San Jose High, and did you, what kind of activities did you do in high school?

RO: I went out for basketball, track and wrestling.

KO: And you, your friends were your Japanese friends from...?

RO: Yeah, most of the Japanese boys went out for basketball, 'cause lightweights were pretty much all Japanese.

KO: And did Norm Mineta go to the same high school as you?

RO: Yeah, he went to San Jose High.

KO: Okay, so you guys have been good friends for a long time.

RO: Yeah, I've known Norm since I was five years old.

KO: Okay. And after high school, what did you do?

RO: After high school, then I went into service.

KO: And where were --

RO: I put three years in the army.

KO: And where were you stationed?

RO: I put ten months in Korea, then I spent a year in Japan, and the rest was in the States here.

KO: What did you do in Japan?

RO: I was stationed at a army hospital unit, and I got transferred to a personnel department, so I was a personnel sergeant for this army base.

KO: Did you speak Japanese?

RO: Not too well.

KO: Did you learn any there?

RO: I couldn't speak it that well, so I didn't use it that much. [Laughs]

KO: Then when you came back from the service, did you go to college?

RO: I went to San Jose junior college for a year, then I went to University of Santa Clara, and I graduated there in 1958.

KO: In... what was your major?

RO: Business. I was a business major.

KO: Did you get a job right away?

RO: No.

KO: What did you do?

RO: I went to work for my parents.

KO: Oh.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KO: And then did you stay in the nursery business with your parents?

RO: Yeah, my mother got, my dad had passed away in 1958, and then my mother was not that healthy, so I had, came back to help her, 'cause she had to run the hall and run the flower shop, so I came back to help her. I've been there ever since.

KO: And what year was that?

RO: In the '50s, '59 or '60.

KO: Were you married at the time?

RO: No, I wasn't married then.

KO: When did you get married?

RO: God, you got me on that one. [Laughs] It's in 1963, I think it was.

KO: How did you meet your wife?

RO: Oh, she was going to San Jose State, and she was living with my aunt. My aunt's from Hawaii and my wife's from Hawaii, so she was boarding with my aunt, that's how I met her.

KO: Did she help you in the flower business, then?

RO: She, she got a degree in teaching, and she taught school for seven years. And then after we had the three children and she quit teaching and then came to help me in the shop.

KO: So you have a, you learned a lot from your mother and father on how to run the business.

RO: Yeah, pretty much, uh-huh.

KO: From your previous years of helping them out. Did you ever think you would want to do something different than be involved with their business?

RO: Yeah, it would be nice to try something different.

KO: What do you think made their business such a success, to last all these years?

RO: I think they worked long hours. They worked very hard.

KO: So they established a good reputation --

RO: Uh-huh.

KO: -- for then, for you to carry it on. And have you seen many changes in the flower business over the years?

RO: Oh, yes. The flower business has changed dramatically. It's not like the old days. Old days was a lot busier. Now it's, it changes with every generation. People have different ideas, and every generation differs. So it goes in, like, in cycles.


<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KO: So because your father had such a good reputation with the flower shop, you've been able to keep the same clientele?

RO: Yeah, pretty much. But the dynamics have changed. We went from having a lot of residential accounts to commercial.

KO: And what kind of commercial accounts...

RO: You have a lot of these electronic companies in north San Jose, that Silicon Valley, and when the dot-commers were booming, everybody was spending money left and right. So things were pretty good for about ten years. And after the dot-commers went down, then everything else went with it. So it's been a down, business has been down since 9/11, and the dot-commers.

KO: So who makes all the arrangements that you take orders for?

RO: I'm chief cook and bottle-washer. I buy everything and I make everything and then I tell the driver where to go. It's a simple operation. It's Vi, myself, and a driver, okay, and so we have pretty good control. And then we watch what we do, I don't over-advertise. I know how much business I'm gonna get, pretty much.

KO: So you make every arrangement?

RO: I make everything.

KO: Do you kind of tailor it to your clients' personality, or do they just tell you what they want?

RO: I pretty much watch what I use. I'm kind of a stickler for using fresh flowers. A lot of florists use marginal flowers, that's why they die the next day. Anything I send out will last a while, 'cause I don't use old flowers; I throw it away. So I've always been a stickler for quality, so I always use fresh stuff.

KO: Where do you get your inspiration for the arrangements?

RO: Oh, you can, after a while, you do so many, it's, comes automatically.

KO: Do you think you got some innate talent from your mother or father, or...

RO: Yeah, probably my mother.

KO: Artistic talent? Did she do most of the arrangements?

RO: Yeah, she did most of them.

KO: Did you take classes?

RO: I took a class once, long ago, but I learned through hard knocks.


KO: Some businesses which were started right after the war in Japantown failed. Do you have any ideas why they did?

RO: I think my parents didn't want to work for someone else, so that was the only thing to do was start your own business.


<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KO: What do you think has been your greatest rewards of having a business in Japantown?

RO: The greatest reward? I think you get satisfaction out of owning your own business and serving the community.

KO: Are you involved with any community organizations?

RO: I was on the Fuji Tower Board for fourteen years, I'm on the JACL advisory board, I'm president of the Hiroshima Kenjinkai, and then we used to do a fundraiser for Yu-Ai Kai, we used to call it the Friends of Yu-Ai Kai, when they had that car raffle, I think we did it for about four years, and then, well, we used to be on the Nikkei Matsuri Committee. My wife's been head of arts and crafts for about fifteen years on that thing. And then I belonged to this odori group, Bando Misutakai, for about twenty years. I had two of my daughters in classical Japanese dancing. I wanted them to get some Japanese culture, so put 'em into that odori.

KO: Do you think participating in all these organizations has helped your business?

RO: It helps to be active in the community, definitely.

KO: And supportive. What do you think the future holds for Japantown and the Japanese in the businesses they own?

RO: Well, you know, the Japanese, we are becoming a very small minority, so I wish they could maintain Japanese town, Japanese town, 'cause that's the only identity we're gonna have pretty soon. Because I feel we're gonna be assimilated in about three, four generations.

KO: Do you think your daughters will go into the business when you decide to retire?

RO: No. All three of 'em went to college and they have their own careers, so they wouldn't come in the flower business.

KO: So what would happen to Onishi Florist?

RO: I have a person that told me that he would buy my business if I ever quit, so I have somebody who will buy my business if I ever quit.

KO: Would it still be called Onishi Florist, or a different name?

RO: No, I'd take my name off.

KO: Oh, okay. So you've had some, many rewarding experiences throughout your career in the florist business?

RO: Yeah, you can look back and be gratified at some of the things you've done.

KO: Okay, is there anything else you'd like to say about your life or business and share with us today?

RO: I think it was a good experience, my being in Japanese town, and hopefully Japanese town will prevail.

KO: Okay.

RO: It's getting to be like... what do you call that? Endangered species. [Laughs]

KO: [Laughs] Right.

RO: Yeah, really. Who's to say if Japantown will be here four generations from now?

KO: That's true.

RO: So we have, it's our duty to instill in our young people the desire to keep this place alive.

KO: I agree. Okay, well, we'd like to thank you, Mr. Onishi, for helping us with this project and to preserve the Japanese American history in the Santa Clara Valley. Your contribution will help future generations understand and appreciate the role of the Japanese Americans in California's history, especially here in Japantown. Thank you very much.

RO: Thank you.


<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

KO: Okay, can you describe the picture that you're holding?

RO: This is the grand opening of Onishi Florist, 1947.

KO: Fifty-seven years ago. And who are the people in the picture?

RO: Yeah, my mother and father.

KO: I see. It looks like a very big place.


KO: And this is a picture of the nursery?

RO: Uh-huh, that's my uncle and aunt and my cousin.

KO: In the picture?

RO: Uh-huh.

KO: In the foreground is...

RO: The nursery.

KO: And the back building?

RO: In the back is that flower shop, and they were building something on the top, apartment on the top.

KO: Is that in existence today?

RO: That's in existence.

KO: But the...

RO: The nursery's not in existence, but that building's still there.

KO: Okay. The nursery was eventually the hall.

RO: Then the, that's where that Mexican restaurant is, that's where the Onishi Hall used to be.

KO: Okay.

RO: We had a Japanese restaurant in there at one time, Sakura Gardens. Sakura Gardens of Mountain View?

KO: Uh-huh.

RO: They were a little too early for a Japanese restaurant in this area, I guess. They lasted about three or four years.

KO: The one in Mountain View?

RO: (No, the restaurant in San Jose.)

KO: I remember that. Oh, so there were two?

RO: Yeah, this was the San Jose branch, but they were a little too early.

KO: Not too many people liked Japanese food then.

RO: Yeah, not at that time, yeah.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

[Mr. Onishi walking through his business, Onishi Florist, in San Jose, California.]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.