Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Eiichi Sakauye Interview
Narrator: Eiichi Sakauye
Interviewer: Jiro Saito
Location: San Jose, California
Date: February 8, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-seiichi-01-0032

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JS: What do you think were the contributions of Japanese and Japanese American farmers to agriculture in Santa Clara Valley?

ES: Well, they have done a great deal, but no one has said that because of the Japanese, they have developed this and that. The Japanese have developed quality vegetables, and during the war, they had lost these varieties, and today, the growers are growing quantity and not quality. For example, bell peppers, we had beautiful California ones, square ones, heavy meat. We had tomato peppers, looked like tomato but they're peppers. We had self-blanched celery, it was beautiful. You could break a stem with a crunch, and you don't have to bleach 'em or anything. Today, celery is just as green as a grass. Peppers are all shapes: long, short, stubby, then broccoli, they had beautiful heads. They still have beautiful heads, but those days, we harvest the heads and then we harvest the suckers. Suckers are very, also tender, too, but today it's just the head alone. Those big stubs are not as useable as these little shoots were. So there are many, many ways that, that the Japanese helped to bring out quality vegetables.

JS: What do you think the future of Japanese Americans in agriculture in Santa Clara Valley?

ES: I believe there's none.

JS: No future.

ES: Because there's very few of us in agriculture, and those very few are not producing as much, and therefore the commercial truckers that used to truck produce from this area to the Bay Area markets are not in operation.

JS: The land that you currently own, you have your own home, home property, that you said as a hobbyist you grow fruit trees. What happened to the other land that you had?

ES: Well, it's a sad story. Had family disputes, so gradually we got in debt and lost it. So my story is that if you have a family partners, do not be just a partnership. Have some sort of instruments written out, what you do and you don't do. Another best thing is to do, is to form a corporation, because that way one partners can't break you. 'Cause under partnership, act of one binds the other. But in a corporation, no. Thereby you can save your organization. Because as the partners get older, they get senile. They have heart attack, they're loss of mind, and that's when the trouble comes in, that's when the in-laws come in and take over. That's what broke us.

JS: So the farm that you have now is the only remaining farm of your father's?

ES: Yes.

JS: From 1900 until the present. What's going to happen to that property?

ES: Today, it's in, my farm is in trust. In other words, my heirs can do whatever they want, and I can do whatever I want now, while I'm living.

JS: Okay. Do you have any final comments you'd like to make about the Japanese agriculture in the Santa Clara Valley?

ES: Well, I think my comments more than farming, I think that we, persons of Japanese ancestry, should never forget what our fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers have gone through. And to this very day, I think it should be never forgotten. I don't believe any other ethnic group has gone and been treated as we, persons of Japanese ancestry. We excel, yes, today, but those days we couldn't excel at all. We had not enough voters of age, we had no clout in the civic and state and federal government, today we have those, and we are very much pleased that our fathers or mothers were able to see that we get higher education and be equal to our fellow citizens.

JS: Okay, thank you, Mr. Sakauye, for taking the time to participate in this visual history interview to document you and your family's important role in the agricultural history of the Santa Clara valley. Your contribution will help future generations to understand and appreciate the historic significance of Japanese and Japanese American farmers in the Santa Clara Valley.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.