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

<Begin Segment 1>

JS: This is a visual history interview with Eiichi Edward Sakauye, whose family has owned and operated a farm in San Jose, California, since the early 1900s. The interview, titled, "Eiichi Sakauye: A Lifetime of Farming," is being conducted by Jiro Saito and is taking place on February 8, 2005, at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 North Fifth Street, San Jose, California. The interview is funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Thank you, Mr. Sakauye, for taking the time to participate in this interview today.


JS: I'd like to start the interview with some background information about your father. What was your father's name and where was he born?

ES: My father's name was Yuwakichi Sakauye, born in Okayama-ken, Japan.

JS: And how old was he when he left Japan?

ES: He was twenty-six years of age.

JS: Oh, so he was an adult when he, pretty well an adult when he left.

ES: Yes.

JS: And what was his reason for leaving?

ES: Well, just like the rest of the immigrants; to seek adventure and have a future for himself.

JS: What, was he living on a farm, or what kind of occupation was he involved in at that time?

ES: He was a carpenter by trade, but he felt that that's into what he wanted to do, when everybody is immigrating to the United States, but he liked to try his luck in the United States, or like the other immigrants, to make success.

JS: Do you know if he had any idea of what type of work he was going to do when he got here?

ES: No, he had no idea. He had no idea as to what his friends, or persons of Japanese ancestry, were doing here.

JS: Did he come by himself, or did he come with a group of people?

ES: He came by himself, amongst, he was one amongst a group.

JS: Okay, and did he come directly to the U.S., or did he come by way of Canada or Mexico?

ES: He came by way of Vancouver, British Columbia.

JS: Did he stay in Vancouver for any length of time?

ES: Very short time.

JS: And what was he doing in Vancouver?

ES: Well, Vancouver, he worked in the railroad for a very short time.

JS: And this was in 1900 that he came, is that correct?

ES: Yes, early 1900.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

ES: Then he moved to the United States. And why did he move to the United States?

ES: Well, he worked on the railroad just a little bit, and he said, "Well, this is not for me," so he wanted to be with, amongst his ken people, which meant that he would have to come to San Jose.

JS: Okay, so that's where a lot of the people from Wakayama-ken had come, they preceded him then, huh? So he knew about that.

ES: Right, yes.

JS: Was it his intention, when he came to the United States, to live here permanently, or was he going to make some money and then return to Japan?

ES: Well, his intention was to make a few dollars, then return to Japan.

JS: Okay, so he didn't intend to stay here permanently, then?

ES: No.

JS: When he arrived in the U.S., leaving Vancouver and coming here to, to San Jose area, what type of work did he do?

ES: Well, when he arrived here in San Jose, he arrived Wright's Station, just above Los Gatos, where Lexington Dam is now situated. And he worked on the farm there for a little bit, and then he says he wanted to start something on his own. So that's what brought him to San Jose.

JS: So he worked on, he was a carpenter by trade...

ES: Yes.

JS: ...then he became a farmer.

ES: Well, he worked on the railroad, then came out here and worked on the farm a little bit. And I think he got the taste of the farm, so he wanted to become a farmer.

JS: He had no experience in agriculture before that, then, did he?

ES: Not that I know of. He didn't say anything.

JS: That was pretty brave of him to start something practically new like that. Now, you spoke of Wright's Station. Could you describe what Wright's Station exactly was?

ES: Wright's Station is above Los Gatos on the way to Santa Cruz. Now it's Lexington Dam, that's where a number of small farmers existed there, and the reason it's Wright's Station, because the railroad train arrived at Wright's Station to pick up fruits and haul 'em out of the area.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JS: Could you please compare and contrast how your father started in farming in California, and how other Japanese farmers began their businesses?

ES: Well, my dad wanted to start farming, so he came to San Jose, and whether he was on sharecrop basis or lease basis, I don't know. But anyway, he started on North First Street where the California Waterworks exists today. And he started a little farm, then he discovered that he needed a horse and wagon and various small tools. So actually, he had borrowed money, and the only way he could borrow money was the fact that he had two badly scarred thumbnails because he was a carpenter, and every time he goes to the city store here in San Jose, says, "Let me see your right hand. Let me see your left hand." And that was his way of selling himself, in other words, that he was honest and will pay him back. Same with the grocery store. They went to Chinese store in Cleveland Avenue, which is now City of San Jose corporation yard, and bought all the groceries there.

JS: So that his, his thumbnails were sort of like his identification?

ES: Right.

JS: [Laughs] That was intended.

ES: Yes.

JS: Because did Japanese have any sort of formal identification at that time that they could use?

ES: Well, no, there was no application they could use for credit or anything, it mostly was cash and carry. But starting the farm, he needed farm equipment, he couldn't afford to buy 'em, so that's how he started.

JS: And how were the other Japanese farmers beginning their businesses?

ES: Well, there were, other Japanese farmers were, got together and formed a partnership together, and that's how they started the farm.

JS: What type of farming activities were the Japanese farmers involved in at that time?

ES: Well, at that particular time, the fruit-growing, you plant the trees and it takes good many years to bear. But truck crops, berry crops, and fresh vegetables, would take very short time and very little investment. So that's what most of the Japanese started growing berries and vegetables.

JS: Did they have farming help when they were creating these truck farms?

ES: Well, they had farming help because these immigrants from Japan were eager to make a few dollars, and they would help work each other on the farm.

JS: So you said that they were either leaseholders or sharecroppers.

ES: Right.

JS: Who owned the land that they were working on?

ES: Well, mostly Caucasians of other ethnic background.

JS: Did they favor Japanese farmers?

ES: Well, there were many of them favored Japanese farmers 'cause they discovered that they were very intelligent, hard-working people. I know when the load of people came to Alviso by barge, farmers were there waiting at Alviso and offered them jobs.

JS: By "farmers," you mean Caucasian farmers?

ES: Caucasian farmers.

JS: Okay.

ES: In the north valley here.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JS: Now, could you kind of describe -- for many of us who don't know -- the details of sharecropping? What is involved in sharecropping?

ES: Well, sharecropping is the landlord owns the property and he usually lets the tenant or whoever wants the farm there on shared basis, either on percentage basis.

JS: And they would, the percentage basis was based upon the sales of the crop.

ES: Right.

JS: And then the percentage was between, divided between the sharecropper and the...

ES: Landlord.

JS: ...and the landlord?

ES: Right.

JS: How much of a difference was there in terms of the sheer...

ES: Well, I really don't know. I think it varies with different landowners.

JS: Was that something that had to be negotiated between the individual sharecropper and the landlord?

ES: Yes. Right, right.

JS: Okay.

ES: Because lot of farmers had orchard on north San Jose here, and during the harvest time, they needed help. And after the harvest was finished, they wanted to keep their men on the ranch, otherwise the Japanese will be migrant crop followers, one crop to the other. And that way, they won't have any help the coming year. So naturally, they probably gave them some marginal land that they're not farming to these Japanese immigrants to raise a few crops.

JS: And so then when harvest time came with the orchards, then this stable labor supply was there, then they would help to harvest the orchards, then?

ES: Right.

JS: Ah, so that's how the arrangement came about.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JS: Now, your father and two other men, I understand, formed a company called NKS?

ES: Yes.

JS: And this was in 1902, I believe, is that correct?

ES: Yes.

JS: And what did NKS stand for, and how did your father became acquainted with these other two men to form this company?

ES: Well, they're from the same prefecture.

JS: Wakayama.

ES: And, and the N stands for Nakamura, and one of the ancestors of Nakamura still living. And Kino is another partner who had made a few dollars and went back to Japan. S, as you know, is Sakauye. [Laughs] So that was NKS. They were known as, not by name, but NKS, so it was easy to, to say. So the produce houses, they all called NK, NK.

JS: Why did they form a partnership?

ES: Well, pooled their money, in the first place, and pooled their assets together, and they're able to get any necessary equipment by pooling themselves together.

JS: Now, were they still lease, leasing land at that time?

ES: Yes, they were still leasing land.

JS: But they still formed this company anyway?

ES: Right.

JS: Now, it seems like, was the NKS one of the first Japanese agricultural companies formed in the valley, or were there others?

ES: Well, I think there were other farmers in the valley. Like I said before, they're on somebody's farm, sharecropping like that. But far as I know, far as I, folks told me, there was any type of organization that few of 'em got together and farmed together.

JS: What type of crops did they grow?

ES: Chiefly berries, but berries in the wintertime is dormant. So they grew a lot of Oriental vegetables and, of course, American vegetables alongside it.

JS: Did they have any -- I'm sorry.

ES: 'Cause I know we had a lot of old packing crates that shipped to San Francisco, Oakland, to Chinatown, so they grew Chinese vegetables.

JS: Oh. Did they have anybody working for them?

ES: Well, the people that worked for them are the immigrants keep coming from Japan, and first thing when they come to San Jose, they stayed at the boarding house in San Jose, and soon as they come to the boarding house, they always look for a job, because they're plenty hungry. And first thing that they'd take any job that they can get. My dad come to Japantown here, and there's a boarding house by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Kimura operated. And they'd come there, and look for jobs. So we'd hire 'em, and they're good workers, but on the weekend, they want to come to Japantown and see, meet other people that are immigrating to the United States. So on the weekend, it was very hard to have anybody steady like that. [Laughs] He always complained.

JS: How long did you hire them for? I mean, just for harvesting or for planting or everything like that?

ES: Well, see, people keep coming and coming, so whether we hired same person over and over again, that's another story. But there were abundance of labor, because they weren't able to go into other trade or anything, and they were just like other ethnic group first come to the United States: work for somebody and make a few dollars, then they would go on their own.

JS: Okay. But I guess what I'm asking is, when you went to actually hire them, do you say, "Well, this is just for today only," or is that how it worked out?

ES: Well, I don't know if it really was just for two days only, because I never asked my dad the question because he said he always come to Japantown and come to the boarding house where he could get his help.

JS: Okay. How successful was NKS?

ES: Well, it was, I would say, for early settlers to come and start, so I think it was quite successful, because the merchants here, wholesale merchants really depended on the growers.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JS: Now, when did the company come to an end, and why did the company dissolve?

ES: Well, you know the earthquake of 1906, that time out where my dad was, the partner's farm, NKS, had quite a land shake, and there was a huge difference between one field and another field, so they, then at the same time, my friend across the road there decided to subdivide the place. So my dad wanted to have them move over there, but no, they said, "We can move from one field to the next field and always stay on the very fertile field. We don't want to be moving all the time." Well, my dad says, "I don't want be moving all the time. When I set up buildings and buy equipment, I don't want to be moving all the time. I want to be able to develop my crop and stay there." So that's when it broke apart. Of course, Kino went back to Japan, it was only Nakamura. Nakamura decided to retire and come to town. He lived in Nineteenth Street for a good many years before he goes back to farming.

JS: So your father was the sole survivor in terms of continuing the farming business.

ES: Right.

JS: Can you tell me something about his farm and how he did after NKS came to an end?

ES: Well, first, as you know, it takes equipment to start farming. He didn't have much money or he didn't have any money. In fact, he borrowed a lot of money, even when buying property, he borrowed -- or mortgage the property -- but the crops didn't bring very much money, therefore it was very hard for him to pay it. And the bank, Garden City Bank here in San Jose on First and Santa Clara Street, foreclosed on it. [Narr. note: Garden City bank no longer exists in San Jose.] At that particular time, my dad was very anxious to pay off the debt, so he farmed the neighbor's farm there, over a hundred acres of tomatoes. And the landlord there one day... well, he wasn't feeling as well as he should, so he asked him, "What's wrong?" And he said the Garden City Bank began to close on him, foreclose on him. He says, and then he showed him the foreclosure notice, which I understand, and it was merely three thousand dollars. In those days, three thousand dollars was a lot of money. So that landlord where he farmed said, "Here, I'll loan you that money. You can pay me back anytime." So that's when he paid off his debt, and he felt much better and he was able to grow more crops because he wasn't in debt. He could borrow money.

JS: What type of crops did he begin growing?

ES: He started in a little orchard, because the old orchard was pretty well run-down. And between the orchard he planted row crops: strawberries, then for the wintertime, Chinese vegetable, daikon, nappa and Chinese mustard and all that stuff.

JS: So, but he's still leasing this land that he's working on at this time after NKS?

ES: No, he bought it.

JS: Oh, he bought the land?

ES: He bought the land.

JS: When did he buy the land?

ES: Pardon?

JS: When did he buy the land?

ES: He bought it in 1907 on a shoestring.

JS: Okay. So he was the owner of the property that he was now working on.

ES: Right.

JS: And when you talked about how he worked these tomato fields and this landlord forward, granted him this three thousand dollar loan, at that time, was he, he was working as a sharecropper then, wasn't he, for this other farmer, or not?

ES: Yeah.

JS: Okay. But he still had his own land in the meantime as well?

ES: Right.

JS: Oh, okay. Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JS: Now, much of this period we talked about, in fact, the entire period we talked about, roughly from 1900 up until the closure of NKS in 1906 and now we're in 1907, he's a bachelor.

ES: Yeah.

JS: He's by himself. And when did your mother come into the picture?

ES: My brother, mother came into the picture in 1911. You know, in those days, the family had picked their bride to arrange to marry someone. So he went back to Japan in 1911 and picked up the bride that was meant for him and came back to the United States. Well, in 1912, in January, I came to this country -- this world. [Laughs] So the other day --

JS: You were the blessed event in 1912, huh?

ES: So yesterday, the 25th of January, a few days ago, I was ninety-three years old.

JS: Well, you've a hearty, lived a hearty life. What was your mother's name?

ES: Tamaye Kinoshita.

JS: Tamaye Kinoshita?

ES: Yes.

JS: And was she from Wakayama as well? Because you said that there was, they had promised --

ES: Yes, Wakayama. In the little town of Gobo.

JS: Okay, okay. And she came in 1911 and a year later or so you were born. That gives me an opportunity now to transfer the interview to you. You were born here in San Jose?

ES: Yes.

JS: And how many siblings did you have?

ES: We had five.

JS: And your name is Eiichi, so that is a designation for the first son, I would imagine, is that correct?

ES: Yeah, right.

JS: And how many brothers and sisters -- you said you were one of five -- how many brothers and sisters did you have?

ES: I had two, two brothers and two sisters.

JS: And everyone is all living still?

ES: Pardon?

JS: All, all living still?

ES: No.

JS: No? Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JS: How old were you when you first became involved in, in the farm, working on the farm?

ES: Well, I was a little toddler, and always hanging onto Father's pants, because my father couldn't speak English, and I just started school in first, second, third grader, and was able to speak a little English. So every time that I have no homework to do, or have to go to town for shopping, he would take me along. So I was brought up by him all along.

JS: So you were like his interpreter, then?

ES: Yes.

JS: And what type of things did you interpret for him?

ES: Well, usually going to buy tools and things like that. I would say in English what it is -- in broken English -- and amount of dollars. So my dad took faith in me, what I was telling him, and that's how I grew up to be a better farmer.

JS: So your responsibilities increased as you got older?

ES: Right.

JS: You started out interpreting. What other roles did you take on as you -- this is before the war, of course -- what other roles did you take on in terms of the family farm?

ES: Well, gradually, my dad got bigger and bigger in farming. And the alien land law came in effect, so that stopped a person of Japanese ancestry unable to purchase land or, or even to get American citizenship, because they were ineligible to become American citizen. So that put the kink in our expansion. And, well, we lay low for a while until I got to be twenty-one years raised, then we started over again increasing our business, because I could do things legally. Heretofore, we couldn't do it legally, because I was underage and also my folks were ineligible to become American citizens.

JS: Up until -- I'm going to ask you in a little while about what the alien land law was all about, alien land law was all about -- but up until that time, your father was able to purchase land. How much, how much land did you, did your family have up until 1915?

ES: Well, my dad had twenty acres of his personal land. He had leased many acres of land on the side.

JS: Okay, so twenty acres of his own, and then he leased property of a certain amount as well.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JS: Now, how many farm workers did you need to operate on, operate your farm?

ES: Well, at that time, it was sort of a on and go all the time, because various crops, difference with the crops that he grows, and needs help. But until it got so large that he had to have some steady help, and when he had to have steady help, he built a little cabin for the workers, and they were all bachelors.

JS: And these were still Japanese workers that you would --

ES: Right.

JS: -- as you described earlier how he went to the boarding house to, to hire them.

ES: Yes.

JS: And did he ever, when did, did he ever not use Japanese help any longer?

ES: Well, yes, he did. He had one Mexican person work practically all year long, and the Mexican people have quite a New Year's, Christmas and New Year's celebration, so they'd usually go back that time of year.

JS: So did he reach a point where he began to rely on non-Japanese farm workers? Because I believe you said that most of them were working the farms temporarily and then they would seek other types of occupations.

ES: Yes.

JS: So there must have been a time when you were getting more non-Japanese laborers.

ES: Well, yes. We had a person of Italian ancestry that time working for us, too.

JS: How did you recruit the non-Japanese workers?

ES: Well, we just had to come to town and by word of mouth, and sometimes other growers would finish their crops or something, and we asked for their help.

JS: Did any problems arise between your father and the non-Japanese farm workers? Because I know there was some early attempts to organize farm workers at that time. But did your father experience any difficulties with his farm workers?

ES: Well, we were in north San Jose, where there were many other ethnic farmers that, who had emigrated from their hometown, and we had, they were all in the same condition that, that their financial situation is very small. So we helped each other just like a family: "you do this for me, I'll do this for you." And then my dad and my neighbor, my neighbor had one horse and my dad had one horse, and during the wintertime when it gets so muddy, one horse can't pull the wagon by, by himself. So we'd borrow the horse and put two together, and that's how we operate. In case, in the wintertime, we used to be able to cut wood along the creek, and those days you burned wood in the stove to cook and everything else. So winter months, they would chop the wood and get it to their home, and then my dad would take this saw that he made himself, and the gas engine we had in 1906, and drag that along and powered the saw with a gas engine, and cut the wood for him. So then we'd trade, you know, help each other very much, so we had no ill feeling because you're Italian ancestry or German ancestry, that I don't want to work for you. We're just, just like one family. And my dad lived close to the main road, and the other families lived further back. So the mailbox was near the road, and the rainy days, instead of driving horse and wagon, they walked to the mailbox and pick up the mail, they stopped over at our barn, and we'd have a chat with our broken English, so forth, we were just like families.

JS: So what, so when you did the planting and the harvesting and things of this nature, you did have help from other families who lived in your vicinity, then?

ES: Right.

JS: Is that correct?

ES: Right, right.

JS: Did you, were there any, say, just plain farm workers, that's all they did? Did you have any people like that?

ES: Oh, yes, migrant farm laborers.

JS: Now, did you have any problems with them?

ES: No, we didn't have no problems. Seemed like they always wanted to make a few dollars.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JS: Now, during the early years of Japanese farming in Santa Clara Valley, they were grouped in what they call farming clusters.

ES: Yes.

JS: And could you please tell me a little bit about what the farming clusters were all about?

ES: Well, farming cluster, as you call it, is a landlord opens his land for a group of Japanese persons to farm on there. That's why there's a cluster on north San Jose on Trimble Road, Milliken Corner, Berryessa, Milpitas, Edenville, that's where these little farms established, and there's a cluster of them living together.

JS: And they had their own little homes...

ES: Right.

JS: Separate homes, like individual family homes on this, on this acreage.

ES: Right.

JS: Which one did your family belong to, if you did belong to a cluster?

ES: Well, we had our own cluster, because that NKS company. And after that, we went on our own, so we had our own established.

JS: Can you describe the type of roles that these clusters played in the Japanese community at that time?

ES: Well, these clusters were mostly of same prefecture, from same prefecture from Japan, and they had what they called kenjinkai, their own association, and they would have their own activities. Then when they needed some community help, they would sort of get together, like a, that's where the original Nihonjinkai, Japanese associations started.

JS: So they were almost like little, small communities within the greater community of Japanese who were living throughout the valley at the time.

ES: Right.

JS: Did they have their own schools or anything like that?

ES: Well, the schools, the children had to go to courses, the regular American school.

JS: Okay.

ES: But on the weekend, Saturdays, usually they have a little Japanese language school.

JS: In the cluster, or they --

ES: In the cluster, or nearby cluster.

JS: Oh, wow.

ES: They had, in Milliken Corner, they had Alviso, they had Berryessa...

JS: How much interrelationships did you have between clusters? Was there any sort of getting together with several clusters or anything like that for some big event or anything like that?

ES: Not that I know of, but I know what you mean; play baseball. [Laughs]

JS: Nothing like that, huh?

ES: No. There was a undokai, or a picnic to get together.

JS: Oh, okay.

ES: That way it overlaps, you know. 'Cause I may have a relative in the, in another sector there, they would get together and we had this undokai, or picnic, that we usually get a open space or pastureland and have a picnic.

JS: Was there any sort of self-identification with these clusters? I know you said that they were grouped on basis of common, from ken in Japan. Wakayama-ken would form a cluster, but was there any sort of group identity as far as being a member of this particular cluster was concerned?

ES: Well, yes. Being a member of this particular cluster, or like Hiroshima-ken, Wakayama-ken, and Fukuoka-ken, they would get together and have their undokai or their picnic, so then on the other hand, some of the clusters are all mixtures, so they'd go from one place to the other. Or their relatives are in another cluster, so they get together one way or the other.

JS: And as far as Japantown was concerned, in relationship to these agricultural communities, what was the relationship there? Was there any sort of interplay there?

ES: Well, Japantown had little family merchants, and of course, like I said earlier, the Japanese only spoke Japanese, and catered to these Japantown stores. So there were Japan stores that catered clothing, drugs, medicine -- I don't call it, "drugs" sometimes a bad word to say drugs. But medication and so forth.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JS: Okay, we spoke earlier about the alien land law in 1913, I kind of like to just touch briefly about that. Could you kind of tell me what they actually were and how did they impact the Japanese farmers in the Santa Clara Valley?

ES: Well, when Japanese, early ones, that decided to settle here, they were able to buy land. But when 1913 alien land law, which stopped them from buying land, it was sort of a... see, exact word I don't know, but they, they're up against the wall. Other words, they, not able to buy land. As their children grew older, they bought land under their children's name, which the children were underage. And that's how some of the farmers was able to buy land. But otherwise, they didn't want the Japanese buying land.

JS: So there was a definite threat by, felt there was a definite threat by some folks about Japanese gaining property. How much property, how much land are we talking about here, in terms of how much acreage, say, in the Santa Clara Valley did the Japanese own as opposed to the total amount of acreage in existence?

ES: Well, I don't know exact figures, but I can point out some of the growers that did buy the farm before alien law, and persons who bought farms after the alien law under their children's name. So then 1924 came exclusion immigrant, Japanese immigrants to United States. That put a little kink in it, because some single bachelors couldn't get the wives over here, so-called marriage, arranged marriage wives over here.

JS: Now, how did these laws affect your family? I remember you said something about that.

ES: Well, the alien land law affected us because my dad was not able to increase his holdings. Now that he's made a few dollars, he wants to expand, and it was impossible to expand. So only thing he did was that I leased property under my name, and that's how we farmed large acreage. But we couldn't increase our acreage because I was still a minor.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JS: So you had, I believe you said earlier, twenty, you personally owned twenty acres and he was leasing several more acres.

ES: Yes.

JS: And then later on, I believe you said that he purchased more land through you, because you had reached twenty-, maturity at twenty-one years old so you could do that, right?

ES: Yes.

JS: How much land came into existence for the Sakauye farms after that?

ES: After that we gradually grew and grew.

JS: How large did you grow to?

ES: Well, after, including after the war, we grew to be 175 acres of pear land.

JS: Pear, pears?

ES: Pears.

JS: When did -- and we may be jumping ahead a little bit on this -- but when did pears come into the plans of your farm?

ES: Well, these were already planted orchards that we bought into.

JS: Okay. And this was before the war that you bought into these pear farms?

ES: Some of 'em, and lot of it after.

JS: Okay. Was there any reason why you bought pears?

ES: Well, the reason was that we know our culture of pears more than anything else. In certain areas, pear do much better than other varieties, and being specialized in pears, we were able to join a co-op and become a member of co-op, thereby we can market, have a co-op market the fruit. Otherwise we'd be individually marketing the fruit.

JS: So your father began to specialize in pears?

ES: Right.

JS: And when was that around?

ES: When was...

JS: Yeah, when did he begin specializing in pears?

ES: Oh, in early stage. After he bought this 20 acres, he had prunes, apricots, and pears. Well, prunes didn't do so well because they had a lot of water content, and apricots also. So when they dry, they dry pretty much to pulp, other words, so to speak, other words, in the other area, the fruit had more sugar contents, so the packers liked those fruits more than the fruit that's grown in the high water table area. But pears and apples, they like high water table area, and they grow better. So that's the reason why.

JS: And your property had a high water table?

ES: Yes.

JS: Okay. What do you mean -- there's probably people like myself who don't understand what these terms mean, so kind of just briefly define, what do you mean by "high water table" land?

ES: Well, the soil itself is more saturated with water. And pears are the type of fruit that like to grow in sat-, not exactly real saturated, but more water contents in the soil than apricots or prunes. If you grow apricots in the same ground as we do, did in pears, prunes grew a nice size. But when you dry 'em, it just comes to a pit. Apricots same way; when you, when they are harvested, they're beautiful apricots. But when you dry 'em, it comes to a very small size, and you lose all the weights.

JS: So your father, who began as a carpenter, had accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about what type of crops to grow and what type of crops would be profitable during the course of this period, didn't he?

ES: Well, that's all experience, because he had no experience of growing fruit trees or anything. But gradually, through trial and error, I would say, that he had big success, because other Japanese farmers here, they're also on trial and error. Because like I said one time to a group of people, that Japanese farmers grew quality but not quantity, and they always have small acreage. So that small acreage got to produce good money, otherwise they won't break even. So all along, after the wartime, Japanese farmers worked for quality and not quantity. But after the war, or during the war, it's all quantity, not quality. So today's vegetables, some of the vegetables does not compare with those of the Japanese farmers' era.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JS: How significant were the Japanese farmers in the agriculture economy in Santa Clara Valley before World War II?

ES: How did...

JS: Pardon me?

ES: Ask the question again?

JS: How significant, what was the importance, how important were they in agriculture?

ES: Oh. In Santa Clara county, I think truck crop growing was very significant amongst the Japanese. Or growing truck crops for shipping concerns or packing concerns or canning concerns.

JS: You may have answered this, but what do you think were the reasons for their being an important part of the economy?

ES: Well, I think they have talent in growing these crops, and like I said, they're interested in growing quality, not quantity. And that's, the processor knows that, and therefore Japanese growers profit by it.

JS: Did, do you think there was any role that Japanese in Japan type of agricultural practices that were brought by these immigrants, did that play a role in any of this, do you know?

ES: Oh, I don't think so, because in Japan, their major crop is rice, grain crop. And not as much as the varieties of vegetables grown in Japan that could be grown here. I do think that hard work, long hours, family help, has a great deal to contribute to their success.

JS: Okay. Well, like a cultural blend of these different things, as opposed to a actual technique or actual experience with a type of crop are, you think are the most important things here. How did major events in the United States such as World War I and the Great Depression in the late 1920s and '30s, how did they affect Japanese agriculture in the valley?

ES: Well, I think it affected all industry in the Depression years, but farmers, I think, were able to survive because they grow their crops. [Laughs]

JS: Did you become, like, employment places, or did you find a lot of people willing to work on your farms and stuff like that during this time?

ES: Well, in Depression years, it's so difficult because it hit everybody, and moving produce kind of slowed down as well as the feeling of being in a Depression year. So we were all in the same bandwagon together.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JS: Now, it's been said that Japanese farmers designed or modified farm equipment for their crops. Are their any examples that you can describe of that type of activity?

ES: Well, yes. In the horse-drawn days, they would open up a new land, and the land would be hilly or have holes in the ground that has to be covered, leveled up. And they made, Japanese ingenuity made this Japanese land-scraper, which two horses pulled it, and the farmer stayed behind and moved the soil and have the land level, so the water will run from one end to the other and not saturate one end and dry the other end. So that Japanese scraper was one of the forerunners of the Fresno scraper. Fresno scraper was all right for taking the big chunks of dirt and then dumping into a low spot, but Japanese scraper, it's what they call a board scraper, which just refined the area and make it perfect table-flat. And that's been used for, until the wartime, and then by the wartime there came hydraulics, so it changed everything.

JS: Okay. Why didn't anybody else come up with this invention? [Laughs]

ES: Well, well, they did come with a boxed-in leveler, but it took a great area to turn that around. Well, this little board scraper, which I have in display at the museum here, is that it always does a beautiful job, and it doesn't take much space to turn around and make it level from one end to the other.

JS: Do you know who came up with this idea?

ES: I have no idea. They always said, "Japanese scraper, Japanese scraper."

JS: How did you find out about it, then?

ES: Well, everybody has them.

JS: Oh, okay.

ES: Regardless of 1 acre or 5 acres or 10 acres.

JS: Okay, so you found out about these things and you just adopted it for yourself.

ES: Yeah. Well, I have here in the museum, the original one that my dad made, 'cause it was made out of good grain of redwood, so it lasted a long time.

JS: Did you, did you or your father invent any such equipment, any equipment, or your father?

ES: No, there are a number of small inventions, in other words, the berry growers made their little pushcarts, and then the fruit growers made their own sackers. There are a number of things that growers had made to speed up their packing process.

JS: But how about yourself?

ES: Myself and other mechanic were interested, so my... let's see, orchard... forklift. That's when I came back from camp, and we did manufacture for other people 'til our surplus supply ran out, and also made pear grating machines 'til the food industry closed up in the valley here. And lot of little things that help to make work a little easier.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JS: Could you please tell me how the Japanese farmers sold their produce?

ES: Japanese farmers sold their fruit or produce. Like I said earlier, the commission merchants or wholesalers or processors would know who are the good growers, grow quality vegetables and fruits. So they're number one on their list. And any time that they need anything, they call on these growers. So I think the Japanese, persons of Japanese ancestry had very little trouble marketing their stuff. Well, other ethnic groups tried to imitate what the Japanese grow. It was very difficult for them because in the Japanese, the whole family works at a project and cuts the overhead down low, and thereby they were able to compete with other growers.

JS: How did, how did the... I guess what I'm asking is how did the process go? In other words, you harvested a crop, then where, then how did it go from there, eventually end up on the market, on somebody's table, put it that way. [Laughs]

ES: Well, all depends from what you grow.

JS: Okay.

ES: If you grow truck crop, or if you grow berries, otherwise the berries usually go to the wholesale market in San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose. And...

JS: Did you transport it yourself, or did somebody do that transportation for you?

ES: Well, there were, in San Jose, in 19-, around 1917 or before, there's Japanese trucker, Kiso Yasunaga. He was where the, right on corner of Fifth and Taylor Street there, where that new building is now. He started hauling to San Francisco and other areas. Of course, locally here, most of 'em transported in the horse and wagon days.

JS: Now they would, so a truck driver or trucker would then transport this product to the wholesale market, then?

ES: Right.

JS: How would the farmer be involved in the, in the actual sales of his produce?

ES: Actual sales of produce, these produce dealers or merchants would come out to the farm and say, "I want so much of this commodity. I want so much the next day." And when there's a, supply is limited, these buyers would come out early in the morning, almost get you out of bed, and said, "I want so many crates of this; I want so many boxes of this." So when you see the buyers come out early in the morning, you know that there's a shortage, so you usually kind of hold back and says, "I only can give you so much." Well, then the merchants would say, "Well, I can get you a few dollars more." That's how it goes, bargaining.

JS: Okay. So then he would pay, he would pay you for the produce?

ES: Right.

JS: Okay, and that's how the money would be exchanged as far as that was concerned.

ES: Uh-huh.

JS: Okay, okay. Did the Japanese farmers have any competition outside of other Japanese farmers?

ES: Well, within the county itself, yes, other ethnic groups are growing produce. We had competition. But I think they played ball with the rest of the growers, and... 'cause it's, that vegetable crop is, is a type of fresh, it has to be sold today and not held over a number of days. So the rapid movement made it necessary to sell what you grow as soon as possible. So I don't think the competition is great like other, dried fruit commodities, because you can store the fruit after it's dried or processed for a long time, but the vegetable is perishable, so the turnover is great, and therefore I don't think... they might have suffered one, one crop, but you could grow two to three crops of vegetable while you only grow one crop of fruit.

JS: Was there any sort of anti-Japanese sentiment because of the... I guess you'd say success of Japanese farmers?

ES: Well, I don't know if you'd say anti, but I think there's competition.

JS: Just pure honorable competition as opposed to anti-Japanese sentiments, huh?

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

ES: Now, how did the Japanese farmers actually get the information in terms of how to efficiently grow the crops and the marketing strategies, if that's involved? How did they, how were they able to do that?

ES: Well, first is growing crops. We had a good agriculture commissioner by the name of Lynn Cody at the, far as I can remember, as a kid, about 1917 or so. He was very into actually helping people to make success. Because the county itself here was an agriculture county. Absolutely pure agriculture company. And they depended on the agriculture department helping out with problems with pesticide and fungicide and that nature, also with the seed. So I believe it was very cosmopolitanized here in the valley here. They didn't have the feeling of tearing each other apart.

JS: Did the Japanese farmers themselves give each other hints about how to do things?

ES: In a way, and in a way not. Because they were interested in what they grow, and they grow such a small acreage, and they don't want to give some of it away, other words, their talents, experiences, away.

JS: So they had their secrets.

ES: Yeah.

JS: Could you give any of the secrets your farmer, your father had?

ES: Well, I don't know.

JS: [Laughs]


JS: Did the Japanese here have any sort of organizations that kind of helped them out in terms of their farming that is Japanese themselves?

ES: Well, Japanese in one... several organizations. They had their own co-op, and that means that they can buy together or sell together. And that helped a lot, because they could bargain that way.

JS: What was, what was the basis of these co-ops?

ES: It was purchasing as well as selling their crop.

JS: Okay, but I mean, in terms of what tied the organization together?

ES: Well, I think... I don't know how to say it, but the cooperative effort, trying to make a success in times of difficulty. In other words -- this is getting off the subject -- but when time of distress and hard money, earned money, they had what they call tanomoshi, it's a credit union. And that helped a lot, and pulled over through, in hard times.

JS: Was the tanomoshi related to, sort of, kenjinkai type of thing?

ES: No, no. It's our credit union by itself.

JS: Just a, for the sole purpose of agricultural co-op?

ES: Right, right.

JS: Were you involved in any of that?

ES: I was secretary.

JS: Oh, yeah? And what were your duties as secretary?

ES: [Laughs] Well, it was in difficult times, so someone would make it hard to pay back, so I just have to keep hounding him to pay up his bill so the whole co-op, the tanomoshi wouldn't go bankrupt.

JS: And I guess tanomoshi, the concept here is each participant in it gave a certain amount of money per whatever month or monthly or something like that.

ES: Yes, every month. They would meet and put up so much money. In that group, someone wants to borrow our money, so they'll borrow the money, and then by next month or given time promised, they would return the money. Of course, with a little, little interest money that...

JS: Was it easier to do that than, say, go to a bank?

ES: Oh, yeah.

JS: And why was that?

ES: Because we understand each other and we worked together.

JS: Okay. And most of who we're talking about are Isseis, aren't they? They don't speak English...

ES: Right, Issei and early Nisei.

JS: Okay.

ES: Because early Niseis were tied with their families.

JS: Were there any other ways that you guys could get loans or credit for seed or equipment besides tanomoshi? The bank, I guess...

ES: Well, the bank is the last alternative. Friends is, friends, actually, could be the last alternative to borrow money. But that's very few because in hard times, everybody's having hardship.

JS: What type of arrangements would have made, were there made for irrigation?

ES: Irrigation? That varies with the type of soil and the structure of the soil as well as levelness of the soil. Usually when they have such a small farm, each farm shares the pumping rights for the water.

JS: Okay. Pumping rights meaning pumping from where?

ES: From a well.

JS: And the well is located...

ES: Well, there might be one well or two wells located in that camp or group, and they would share their water. From certain time you pump and certain time they pump. And when everybody wants the water at one time, in other words, they build a big reservoir, and you draw the water from the reservoir.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

JS: Well, that kind of brings us up to the, at the beginning of the war, and this is what you described as what took place prior to World War II. Now I'd like to kind of turn to that. How old were you when the war began?

ES: When?

JS: Yeah. How old were you when the war began in 1941?

ES: I was thirty-two years of age.

JS: Thirty-two years old? Okay. And when Pearl Harbor, or a few days after Pearl Harbor took place, could you describe to me what it was like in San Jose as a whole?

ES: Well, after Pearl Harbor, we were stunned. And our parents were Japanese aliens, and we Niseis were barely getting up there, twenty-one years of age or better, to have any clout in the city, local government. So there's nothing that we could do, and we just feared what's going to happen to us. And when plainclothesmen come to your home and start searching, what are they searching us for? Makes you wonder. We as the Nisei who were over twenty-one years of age, we tried to express our rights as American citizens as we had learned in school. I for one, when we got raided, questioned the officer, rights of American citizen to enter our private home.

JS: Who raided you?

ES: It was three men. He didn't say where they come from or nothing, they just wanted to search the house. I questioned him, "Who are you? Who are you representing?" Because I knew, I thought I knew my constitutional rights. Anyway, they came to the door and I couldn't get any answer. They pushed me back with the door and went through the whole house opening every door, every closet, and went out to the back door. So only burglars go out the back door, enter the front and go in back door. So they went all through the building, our building, opened everything, then they start driving out. So I got in front of the car and saying, "Wait a minute. I want to know why you're here, or identify yourself." They wouldn't identify themselves, just about run over me. So I, immediately I called the sheriff, because I lived out in the country, and the sheriff wouldn't, was, wouldn't give me no answer. So then I called the FBI, Louis Dewine here, and asked them, "What's this all about? What's happening?" And he told me to come in, so I went to where he had his office, second floor on the main post office building, and we had a long talk together. And he didn't ask me, "Do you know of any person of Japanese ancestry who would commit crime or sabotage or subversive activities?" I said, "No. My parents are aliens, and they are not able to get American citizen. They're loyal residents; they pay their taxes, they stay out of the crime and so forth, so I don't understand what this is all about." Then I questioned him about what are, or what is going to become of us, or what is, "What is behind all this?" To think this over, in 1940, we had a census taken. So from that, these three gentlemen -- I call 'em gentlemen, I don't want to call 'em something else -- came to, right to the house, our place to the family, because when that census taken, they knew where you lived, whether you're alien, and what are these things you belong to, everything is there. So that's how a lot of our parents were taken in to Crystal City or other, Bismarck, and that's what happened.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

ES: Then my neighbors keep telling me, "You're American citizen; you're all right." Then when 9066 order came, all persons of Japanese ancestry must evacuate the West Coast, up to 1/16th blood. And that really shook me and said, "Well, my dad and all of my family must go. Where? We don't know. And finally we had to register at the San Jose State gymnasium and sign some papers, Wartime Civil Control Administration as to what we can do with our assets and so forth. Then we were, got, after we got the family number, we were waiting, what's going to happen next, we got orders that 9066, so we had no other alternative but to listen to what may happen. And we were all shook up because lot of families wanted to be close together, so they start moving to other areas. Well, there was an area in east Fresno that was a clear zone. So I thought that I might move over there. But after going there and looking over the area, no homes, just old cow barn and things like that, where are you gonna stay? And I told my dad, "Let's not go. Let's stay here." Because we'd been law-abiding citizens, and I'm American citizen. So we stayed 'til the last, and that's what happened.

JS: How much actual time did you have between the day that you moved, what were the... you got sent out, and from the time that you had to make preparations for that?

ES: Thirty days.

JS: Thirty days. And what did you have, what did you have to do within that thirty days?

ES: Thirty days we had to dispose of our property, and told us that we can get our family numbers. So we had our identification number, and be ready to move and pack a few clothing, didn't say where to go, I mean, where are we going. Warm climate, cold climate or what, or are we gonna live in the city or out in the sticks, so we didn't know what kind of clothes to wear. So we packed little bit of everything. We can't have any contraband, couldn't have any knives over three-inch blade, no cameras or other things. So what can we put in our suitcase what we can carry. So we did put in a few things, I put in a pocketknife because I was a Tenderfoot Boy Scouts, and you know how Boy Scouts do, they peel apples into... so when I arrived in Santa Anita, the officer there opened up my suitcase and they found this knife in there. They were going to take it out, and I says, "I am in the Tenderfoot Boy Scouts, and you know Boy Scouts' motto is 'Be prepared,' and that's why I have this knife in here. I want to peel apple, open letter, of that nature." So he just put it back in.

JS: As far as your property was concerned, what did you have to do to get ready to move?

ES: Well, the Wartime Civil Control Administration asked us to dispose of our property or do something, so it's a long story, but during, our neighbor had served in World War I, and he had an invalid mother. So he's just worried as to, "Who's going to take care of my invalid mother?" Had a half-brother, but half-brother working full-time on the railroad, and he only has time early in the morning or late in the evening. So we made arrangements that we would look after her provided the half-brother would get her up in the morning and put her into bed at night. So that arrangement was made, and I was a little tot at that time, and I would be a messenger between my dad and mother and invalid mother. And after seven months or almost a year, the war was over. So he came back and he was very thrilled that his mother was living, and in just as good a health as the day he left. So that, he remembered that very well, and so when World War II came up, he says, "I'll," when the Wartime Civil Control Administration told us what we can do, and I told him what happened and what we must do: dispose of the property one way or the other, either lease the property or sell it all, or get someone to run it. And he says, "I'll take care of it for you." I says, "Well, I don't know how long, where we'll be, what's going to happen to us." He says, "Well, I'll take of it for you." So that's what he promised to do. Says, "I can't take care of all your ranches, but I'll take care of the home ranch here." So that's what he did, and he took an inventory of all what we had, and I didn't know that. But there were, when I got into Santa Anita, Missus is a schoolteacher at Franklin McKinleyschool here, and she sent me a box of Shanghai peach to Santa Anita. They held it there 'til it rot, the juice coming out of it. Showed it to me, said, "Here's the box they sent." What can I do with it? Can't eat it, it's all rotten. So I wrote back and told her, thanked her, and what's happened. And she couldn't believe what had happened. So she's a schoolteacher, she knows the rights of American citizens. Her folks were sort of, little anti-Japanese, but she was a very staunch American, so was her husband, a veteran of World War I. So he took care of the home place, then the day I returned, fifteen days before the coast was opened, I went to the door and the dog wouldn't bark, so they were surprised that I came home. Says, "You can take over tomorrow if you want." So I says, "I got to get my folks." So it took me less than a month to get the folks. I got the folks back and I started farming the very next day.

JS: So the options were, in terms of disposal and property, was leasing the property, selling it, or get somebody to run it for you. In your case, I believe it was Mr. Seely, is that correct? Offered to take over and run your property for you. How about the other Japanese Americans? Did you hear anything about their fate as far as their land is concerned?

ES: Yes. Well, the other Japanese Americans, I feel real bad about how they treated, what they lost. They lost everything. Everything you can think of they had, they lost. Because they were on the leased property or sharecrop property, the buildings they put on there, all the barns they put on, belongs to the property, they cannot remove it. And since it's leased, the landlord has the right to assign to somebody else, and every one of those farms have personal belongings, the family had personal belongings. They would either store it in some friend's home or someplace, or even store it in government warehouses at last resort. What they stored, vandalism got in, and I can vouch for that. In Japanese town here, they had these, what do you call, salvage stores or pawn shops. And you could see that these Japanese good that they treasured were in there for sale.

JS: Okay.

ES: Of course, when the coast was opened, they cleared everything out, but coast, I came in fifteen days before the coast opened, I walked in Oakland around to see my former commission merchants, and I'd come to San Jose, go up to Japantown, and went to my banks and my friends and my co-ops. They all asked me to come back, and they said, "Don't go out at night. Don't go to saloons or any gatherings." So, which I didn't.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

JS: Now, you got sent to Santa Anita.

ES: Yes.

JS: But I believe you said you didn't know where you were going.

ES: No, we did not know where we were going.

JS: You got on the train...

ES: We had no bearing at all, shades pulled down, the guards on each end of the coach, we were not able to visit our friends or someone on the next coach, and it was just wondering, "What in the world is this?" Or, "What's going to happen to us?" 'Cause nowhere in American history I have ever read anything what we're going through. But when we got to Santa Anita in the morning, we pulled that shade, and that's where we were.

JS: Where were you, where did you live?

ES: We were put in, into, near Arcadia, in the newer area. The barracks were new barracks, but the floor, being greenwood, it had cracks like that. And our little folding cots, if you move a little bit, it would fall in the crack. And nighttime, the cold air comes through the line, it was really cold.

JS: So you didn't, you didn't go into a horse stall like some --

ES: No, I didn't.

JS: -- some unfortunately did.

ES: But I had distant relative in a horse stall, and gosh, every day they would wash the apron of the stall, which was asphalt, and that stench would come up during the heat of the sun. It was terrible. Just imagine city folk, having a beautiful home here in San Jose, living in a horse stable.

JS: How did your mom and dad react to this situation?

ES: Well, they were heartbroken, sad, they had to leave their home, and that's why my dad always said, "I want to go home, I want to go home," all through the two-and-a-half years we were away. So therefore, I wrote letters often to my friends in my co-op, and, telling what we were doing, and sending the Heart Mountain Sentinel, which was the, their paper, and wrote in the Mercury, got articles in the Mercury. So I kept in touch, and so when I came back, I was immediately able to deliver my fruit to the co-op, I had no trouble with my other organization. So I was one of the San Jose, one of the people living here.

JS: So in one respect, you did this so they wouldn't forget about you, besides telling them what was going on, what was going on.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

JS: Now, you had some interesting tasks while you were at Santa Anita.

ES: Yes.

JS: Could you describe some of what they were, and did anything take place that made an impact on you during your stay there?

ES: Well, when we were in Santa Anita, we were like a bunch of animals corralled behind the barbed-wire fence and sentry guards with guns pointing in, not out. Anyway, first thing I saw was the previous evacuee in there working in the grandstand, and making netting, weaving these huge nets. And they asked me to work in there and I says, "No, I can't, because of hay fever, and I can't stand that lint coming." So says, "Got to get a doctor's permission," so I took, went to the doctor's, they got a little shack there, and waited and waited and waited. Finally, after many hours, I got to see a doctor. Doctor approved what I had, hay fever. So then I, next job they offered me is in the motor pool department -- no, warehouse, as a foreman. And that's packing that same stuff, the dust. I got to be on the night shift. Well, that was all right, but when I walked out of my barrack to go to the grandstand, these searchlights always following me through, see. So I, then I got another job as a, in the motor pool, so I drove trucks around in the camp, and then I drove military police to Pomona center when they closed up, to put these MPs on those towers, and picked them up and brought 'em back. Then the next job I got was custodian of Terminal Island property, evacuees' property. And that job was, was September, getting cold, and so they needed jackets and blankets and so forth. So they would give me their family number and what they wanted, and I would go to the warehouse and open their trunks and get the stuff out. In the trunk I found everything you can think of, because, you know, they had to leave in twenty-four hours, so they stuck everything in, piled it onto their car and came in. So that was one of my jobs, but regular job there, I was a Caucasian shuttle bus driver, other words, taking the Caucasians from the outer gate to the administration area.

JS: How far, how long of a distance was that?

ES: Oh, less than a mile. Every day from eight to eight, and when they had the strike there, I didn't know it was taking place. But then the, my orders came to me that I must pack up and get ready to evacuate again. The Caucasian personnel and so, "You can't evacuate, you can't leave us." Says, "Well, I can't leave my parents out there. I don't know where they've gone or anything. I got to go with them." So they says, "Get me an autograph book." So they got me an autograph book, and they wrote a little message on it, which was very nice, I thought.

JS: You still have that?

ES: Yeah, I still have it. Then also, then I got transferred to a God-forsaken country again.

JS: To Heart Mountain?

ES: Heart Mountain.

JS: Yeah.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

JS: Tell me something about the trip to Heart Mountain, anyway. What, how was that?

ES: Well, when we had to leave Santa Anita, we had no idea where they'd take us. The shades were pulled again, guards on both ends of coach, and for three nights and four days we were on the train. And we stopped at various places and let the regular train go through, and we couldn't pull our shades because the military police is watching us. Finally, in the evening, fourth day, we landed in God-forsaken country, and let us out. We couldn't see any barracks or anything, it was on the higher plateau. Then we board the truck and took us to our unit. Our unit just had a potbelly stove in the corner and one light bulb, and no beds or cots or anything. So, "What are we going to do tonight?" So it was getting cold, so all our family got together like cats and dogs and huddled together for the night. Next morning we got up and looked out the windows, covered with snow. That's how cold it was. Then we got our blankets and our cots and so forth, got our coal. Then again, they recruiting help to run the camp, and they gave me a job as a timekeeper for the canal crew. But after one day, I said, "This is not for me." So I said, "Well, you got another job coming, work in the postal department." I said, "That's fine," and I drove truck to pick up the mail to the outer gate, and brought the mail to the post office and help them sort the mail, then after mail sorted, take it to each sub-post office in the camp. I did that, then I got to be postmaster of one of those little sub-stations.

Then during that time, the camp was getting vegetables and so forth of very inferior quality. And people got to wondering, "Can, how can we get better stuff?" Anyway, the ag. commissioner, they had an ag. department in there, and they wanted to grow some crops in that hillbilly country. Nothing but sagebrush and anthills, and no homes and anything around, all we can see. So I went to those meetings 'cause I knew a little bit farming, I like farming. I don't like the post office job, or another job, so I finally got to be a statistician in that department. Kept all the records of produce the first year, and the first year, James Ito was assistant farm superintendent. James Ito is that, his boy was a judge in that famous case.

ES: Lance Ito.

JS: Yeah, same. And so when he left for outside employment, I came in his place. Then I began to work harder because in that area, you only have 109 growing days.


JS: I believe you were talking about your involvement in the agricultural project at Heart Mountain, and you became agricultural superintendent, you replaced Mr. Ito.

ES: Yes.

JS: Would you continue from there?

ES: Well, then it was very difficult for me, because Ito left so suddenly, and I had, not aware of being, to take his place. So I had, did a little research, and I found out that we have all sorts of talent behind the barbed wire fence, and these talents are the Isseis because all the Sanseis or the Niseis who are able to work have left the camp for work or in the United States Army. And all that's left is the Issei, or the aliens. And we had to convince them that it was very necessary for them to help us to grow and harvest crops.

JS: So they weren't exactly sold on the idea at the beginning, as far as...?

ES: No, because they said, "They put us in here. Why should we work? It's their responsibility, not ours. They got to support us." But we had to convince them that the type of produce or type of produce or vegetables, whatever it is, that we would like to eat, we have to grow. Because they'll tell us what they can ship us, but we cannot ask them to ship certain things.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

JS: Let me get back to, you earlier described the land as being like "hillbilly" country, sagebrush. What made you think that you could actually grow something in this soil?

ES: Well, in farming business, like the Isseis did when they come from Japan, you had to study the soil and so forth. And like I said, that behind this barbed wire fence, we have all sorts of talent, and if we can only tap them and use them, which we did. And we're very grateful to be able to communicate with the Issei telling them that, why we need to grow. So we got our heads together and we had seedsmen from Washington clear down to the Arizona border. We had farmers from north to south. They grow different types of crop, and their seed programs, it's entirely different one area to the other. So we put, and then we have soil agronomist, we have chemist, and just name it, we had surveyors. So we asked them to help us, and they especially, we had to know the weather conditions, whether, when we have danger of frost and freezes, so then we have to get in touch with people who grow certain crops in certain area, like in Washington, Wapato people grow crops under very difficult condition. Well, in Southern California, they'll grow crops under hot tents or brush, to break the winds. And mostly comparing our condition in Heart Mountain is similar to Wapato, Washington, area. So now we got the seedsmen together, and checked through all seed catalogs we can get. What variety or what strain of each vegetable can we grow and harvest in that short period of time? And we did lots and lots of research and lots of study, and these people from Washington knew the hothouse business. So we asked the administration to help us to build hot frames and, in the warm part of that building there, close by where the, where the cold winds won't hit, the warm sunshine would hit. And these people from Wapato made these hot frames.

JS: Could you, could you kind of describe it, a little bit about "hot frames" and what's involved there?

ES: Well, a hot frame is what the people Washington area do. They do some of it over here in California, but primarily over there, when they have a climate similar to us, they dig into the ground, put the box, make a box, and make it slope so the sun will hit it just right, then we dig inside the box and put in compost. We had to go around the farms around there to get compost. Put straw on top of this, and put soil on top of that, and put the good soil on top of that. Then we grow our seeds. Then we have a netting over this square box, whereby we can roll the canvas over at night when it gets cold. So that's a daily job. Open it up during the day and close it during the night. And that we start germinating seeds from there. But then we start, after we get the germinated seed, we have these little short seedlings, then we have to transplant 'em and do that same thing with these hot frame, so that the plants will be ready to plant out in the field when the danger of frost is over, which we did. And like bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, some of the melons, we did under the hot, hot frame. The people in Southern California area, grow 'em under hot tents, and when the weather gets a little bit warmer, it's all right to use the hot tents.

JS: Hot tents are what?

ES: Hot tent is a plastic little hut, so to speak, and the seeds are planted inside, out in the field, open field. That is done a little bit later, so we need the skill and knowledge of those people, as well as the skill and knowledge of northern part of the Western Defense Command area, and we grew these plants, transplanted out in the field, and it turned out to be very successful because these people knew what they can do. And not only that, we had a agronomist, who would take sample of the soil, depth of the soil, the nature of the soil, and match the crop to the soil, or the vice-versa, soil to the crop. Other words, growing daikon, which is a deep-rooted crop, and has to have very sandy soil to make a beautiful daikon.

JS: It's a long, white radish.

ES: Right, long white radish. In order to grow grain for the hogs and chicken farm, we don't need such fertile land or anything. So we picked out the land that's gravelly, and can grow grain on it, and get a grain crop out of it. So selection of area to be, these crops be put in, was very important to us.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

JS: Where was this land that you grew this crop located?

ES: We had fifteen hundred acres of all around the camp.

JS: Oh, okay. Outside the camp?

ES: Outside the camp, outside the barbed wire fence.

JS: You had free choice of the land that you wanted, or did you have to make some arrangements with the administration?

ES: Certain person is talented in certain way of growing crops, and we had to use them as a foreman for that crop, and they'll choose what type of land they would like. So we let them, we let him to take care of that crop and grow that crop in that certain tract of land. We grew beautiful tomatoes, beautiful daikon. We had so much daikon that we didn't know what to do with it, and so they started a tsukemono factory, and we dug, in the warehouse, we dug a big tank hole and put the daikon in there and got some sack for, for sugar and other ingredients, and they would pack the daikon in there and stamp 'em down, then let it ferment. And it turned out to be a beautiful daikon tsukemono.

JS: What did you, what did you do with all the... well, you had surplus, I would imagine.

ES: Yes, we had surplus, so we had to ship it to other camps. We cannot sell to the public.

JS: So that was a restriction placed on it as well. Did the camp administration have to be sold on the idea of you growing your own crops?

ES: State the question again?

JS: Did the camp administration, WRA or whoever it was, did you have to convince 'em that you could grow your own crops? Because they were shipping in produce for you, which you didn't like.

ES: Well, when I was statistician, I had made a survey of what crops we are going to grow and when do you expect to harvest them. So that helped the government select what to ship in. But produce is picked green, and shipped in, and there's nothing like fresh vegetables from the field. So with all the knowledge we had, and we selected these foremen for each crop, they each had their plots and planted 'em. We had 30 acres of cucumber and melon under hot caps, we had good many acres under this hot frame plants planted out in the field. And in order to select the variety that we had to choose, it took quite a bit of consultation between all the seed salesmen and the seed growers, because there's few seedmen left. They were mostly Isseis that had a seed store.

Then several of the seeds we were not able to get outside, but we had one person in southern California who had a seed store business, and he had stored his seeds in a government warehouse, and that was gobo. The Caucasian personnel, we told them we're gonna grow this crop, this crop, and one was gobo, burdock in English. He said, "Oh, we can get lot of burdocks along the railroad track, because they're growing wild and they don't want 'em. They're a nuisance." Says, "No, one, the burdock we grow, gobo, is cultivated. It's nice and tender, it's even size." Said, "No, no, you, we'll pick the seeds the railroad, on the railroad tracks." So we got in the car and went along the railroad track and picked those spiny seeds, and planted them. We didn't plant much but we planted just to show 'em that cultivated seeds and wild seeds are different. Because wild seeds, when the railroad workers from Japan came, they brought some seed, planted along the railroad track because they worked on the railroad track. And those kept growing as the seed dropped year after year. But year after year, the seed itself grew tougher and tougher gobo, because they got to survive severe weather also. But the one that the commercial seedmen had were the type that's been selected and we'd been growing for years, that we know that's good gobo.

JS: So the wild burdock that, that they suggested at first was just growing wild there? How far from the camp? Not very far from the camp at all?

ES: No, not very far. Along the railroad track.

JS: Oh, okay, that led to the camp area.

ES: Yeah. Because you know how plant breeds, the weaker ones die off and the stronger ones keep going. That's what happened.

JS: When did this project begin?

ES: Project begins... you mean actually... well, actually, it begins earlier, and as soon as the ground thaws out, because we've got to prepare the ground. First time we came there, we had anthill this high, sagebrush all around, rattlesnakes everywhere, short rattlesnakes. After we cleared the ground, we would stand there in the sun and the shade, we looked down, there's a rattlesnake. That's how full of rattlesnake it was. Anyways, tell that to people up there, "Oh, get us a rattlesnake, we'll make a rattlesnake stew."

JS: [Laughs] So who gave you the equipment to clear all of this stuff?

ES: Well, first, the administration Caucasian ordered the equipment. They ordered light equipment, mostly Ford tractors, but nearby CCC camp, when they were working on the canal, they had heavier equipment, but those heavy equipments were broken down and so forth. And to level the ground, get the ground prepared to grow the first crop, and we have only short day of 109 days, we can't sit around, we got to get it done right now. So when they, Ford, these Caucasian ordered these tractors, we struck because we just can't do it. It just won't perform like we used to farm. So they sent high school kids to run these tractors. Well, the kids were on the truck, we looked down from our administration building, the dust flying all over and they're having a ball of a time. So the administration just kept quiet and says, "Get what you need." So we ordered heavy dyrr disk and equipment from California, and Eversman and Landleveler, all heavy-duty material.

JS: Did they become camp property then?

ES: Oh, yes, government property, of course.

JS: Okay. How about irrigation?

ES: Well, that's when the, when the evacuee went to Heart Mountain, that was the first job that evacuee must complete the irrigation project. They had canals set, but wasn't finished. So they had already planned that we gotta grow crops there. Well, the CCC boys already had this project going, because I think they were gonna open up that area, which was never opened up before, it was just a Buffalo Bill country.

JS: So where was the water coming from?

ES: Water was coming from a dam near Cody. Quite a large lake, and that's for the town of Cody, and they had a generator there to give us light, and fuel was, during the wartime, I thought there's, those strategic areas were prohibited. And being Japanese, probably wouldn't go down there. But they took us down there and showed how the generator works and everything else. Never thought of sabotage, I think, here on the West Coast. [Laughs]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

JS: How -- well, so you started in one month to this agricultural product, and you had seedlings in the ground that first year that you...

ES: Yeah.

JS: Which was a matter of a few months, right? Because you got there in... what month did you arrive there? What month did the camp open up, Heart Mountain?

ES: Camp opened up in September of '40... what was that?

JS: '42?

ES: '43? '42?

JS: '43?

ES: I have information exactly, but... see, '42, I think, late in '42.

JS: Okay. So actually, you started working on the project for maybe, after January of '43, and you're getting the first crop in around April?

ES: Yes, that's right.

JS: April of '43? And you're, that first year that you're there, how successful was the crop?

ES: Well, I would say the, we were very successful outside of few varieties. That is not fault of the seed on the ground, it's just fault of the farmer who took care of that area. I hate to say this, but that's what happened. So the second year, he quit, he says, "I'm not gonna farm, farm it no more. I'm not gonna be foreman of that area no more." So another person took over and grew the same type of crop, and it turned out beautiful. We had 60 acres of corn for canning, and it was just beautiful corn. Not a single worm. Worm doesn't know what corn tastes like. Here in California or West Coast, every corn has a worm in it. If it didn't have a worm in it, the corn won't taste good. [Laughs] And the peas we grew there, we had more peas, so we had to process 'em for canning, which we did.

JS: Who did the canning?

ES: Nearby canning plant.

JS: So you had some sort of arrangement with them?

ES: Yeah, had arrangement.

JS: And then these were shipped to the other camps and so you couldn't compete with the general, I mean, you couldn't compete with the local people?

ES: No, no. We had no right to compete with the commercial... they were used from one camp to the other, for camp purposes.

JS: Did anyone outside the camp hear about the success of the agricultural production?

ES: Oh, yes.

JS: And what kind of comments did you hear about that?

ES: Well, comments I had was surprise that these Caucasian farm superintendent and assistant superintendent were surprised at what we can do. But three years after camp closed, I went back to camp and stopped at Cody after driving all the mileage from Salt Lake City. I was kind of tired, and first thing, I wanted to rest at the motel. A lady comes up here and say, "Hey, I wanted to see you." And I thought, "Hey, I did something wrong, parked in the wrong place or something." "No," says, "You guys opened our eyes to us, what you can grow."

JS: And did they, did they take off of when you guys left off, or not?

ES: Well, that, after we quit, I mean, the camp closed, the land was open to veterans on a lottery basis. And veterans took over some part, but a lot of 'em didn't continue. They had given up farming. I don't think they had any knowledge of farming, outside of growing corn or grain or sugar beets. But even if you grow all those vegetables, which we did grow, except Carter's peanuts, there's no market for that quantity, 'cause we're the, I think we're the largest city in Wyoming, second-largest city

JS: How was the harvest handled? Who did that?

ES: Harvesting was done first by high school students, because it was difficult to get anybody to help, because they were going to school, continue their education, and next group is either going out for employment east of the Rocky Mountains, and another group would be serving in the United States Army, selective service. So who was left? All the disabled and all the Issei are left.

JS: So you depended upon the local, like, Cody, Wyoming, high school students?

ES: No, no. Local. Our own.

JS: Oh, okay, high school students within the camp?

ES: Right.

JS: Okay. And did you have storage facilities for the harvested crop?

ES: Yes. We had a root cellar, which is a big hole in the ground, and it has a roof with a lot of excelsior and things. I think it was around six hundred feet, I don't know how wide. I think it was sixty feet wide, and made out of our own native logs. And I was farm superintendent, so during the winter months, after daikon and rutabaga and potato was stored there, the mess hall would take out so many bushels, and I would have to go in there every day and see how many bushels, take inventory. And that was really, thirty below zero, twelve below zero, it was really cold.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

JS: What were your other tasks?

ES: Pardon?

JS: What were your other tasks as ag. superintendent?

ES: My other tasks, I served as a community activist as far as having various programs. In other words, public programs: induction ceremony, and they also had memorial service, chairman of that, then I had, in charge of USO entertaining. Heart Mountain had the only registered USO of the ten relocation center. Let's see, I had four jobs. I had post office... oh, go out to the weather bureau observer for two-and-a-half years. Every day would, I had to go out there, rain, shine or cold or what, at certain time, to record the temperature. And I would record the temperature and precipitation. But precipitation or snow, the administration building is, heating system is closed on weekends, and if it snows on that day, I have to melt that snow. Only way I can melt is my, my hands were so cold, so I had to stick it on my body and melt that and then measure how many inches of precipitation. Oh, it was a cold job. But while I'm not in camp, I had someone else help me.

JS: What other things did you do as a agricultural superintendent?

ES: Well, daily I had to meet with these different foremen, and ask them if they have any problems and so forth. Well, any way that, if they need assistance that I can get. Well, the hog farm and chicken farm had no problem, 'cause it's daily routine, and, but the field crops, 'cause the good labor is gradually diminishing, so it was very difficult. So the Caucasian administration had Caucasian men above me that would help to run a few things.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

JS: I want to ask you, in comparison with agricultural production in Wyoming at that time, this general agricultural production in Wyoming, how would you rank Heart Mountain's agricultural production?

ES: Well, that's very difficult for me to answer that, because in different areas it varies different with the variety of the crop you grow. And according to the comment that we got from nearby towns and residents, that they were surprised what we can grow.

JS: Okay. But nothing about Heart Mountain's agricultural production was half of the total of the agricultural production in Wyoming at that time? Any, anything like that ever reach your ears as far as you can remember?

ES: Of course, we, we didn't grow the crops that Wyoming grew, other words, grain and sugar beets and corn. But whatever we grew, it really opened the eyes that we, what we can grow.

JS: Okay. Do you think there was any lasting impact on Wyoming with regard to Heart Mountain's agricultural success?

ES: Lasting...

JS: Impact?

ES: Impact?

JS: Yeah.

ES: I don't know if it made any great impact, but it certainly opened the eyes of people, residents of the area, what we can do.

JS: Okay. And then looking back, how would you evaluate your experience in the agriculture project?

ES: Well, I enjoyed it very much, because I was able to work with these Isseis and Niseis, like I said before, "Don't shoot your mouth off, just stop and listen, then open your mouth." Because there are people who are much smarter and brilliant people, but maybe actual experience on the farm might be different. But in order to communicate with the people in camp, that is the greatest asset, I think.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

JS: You were able to come back to San Jose, as you said, fifteen days before the West Coast was opened for Japanese Americans to return. So actually you're here when the war is still going on as far as war against Japan is concerned. How were you able to do that?

ES: Well, it's a long story. Like I said at the beginning, that my dad says, upon evacuation, "I want to go home." But I'm all alone, I've been in contact by letter or newsletter to my friends and associates that I did business with here in San Jose. All along I would send the newsletter all the time, in the winter months when the holiday season comes, I would write to the Mercury Herald telling that, "We appreciate all that you've done for us, and also we give greetings to people in Santa Clara Valley." Christmas greeting, New Year's greeting. And I kept that up. I kept up with all my friends telling them just what I'm doing, what is it like, and they understood. They were mostly educators that I contact with, or person who had lot, better education than average people.

JS: But exactly, though, did you have to petition somebody because, to do this, to be able to get out of camp, to come back?

ES: Oh yes. All along, I've been writing letter to Western Defense Command, and also to the Quakers and the... another organization, I can't think of the name now, and my friends. And finally, oh, property. In the camp, they had property custodian, which takes care of evacuee property problems. And I kept hounding him that I'd like to return because one of the crop's been terribly neglected. You want to know how I found that out? Well, I had friends in the valley that would tell me, but they wouldn't want to be quoted. So then the property department went to get photograph, and then they told me, "Oh, photographing, you can't tell the difference." I says, "Well, maybe somebody else can't, but I can." I could tell a dead tree or a neglected orchard, or ladders strewn all over. And they finally believed me, so that's the reason I was able to come back.

JS: So, so did the government then allow you to do that? Come back or...

ES: Yes.

JS: So there was...

ES: They gave me a...

JS: How did you, how did you manage to get from Wyoming back to California?

ES: Oh, by bus.

JS: Okay. Did you encounter any difficulties en route?

ES: Oh, yeah. In Butte, Montana, "No Japs, No Japs." So I couldn't eat my lunch there.

JS: And when you got here, did you come directly to San Jose, or did you...

ES: Yes. Oh, no, I stayed over at Reverend, Dr. Smith's home that night in Berkeley.

JS: Uh-huh. And who was Dr. Smith?

ES: He's a Methodist minister.

JS: Okay. And what was your relationship with him and why were you able to, why did you stay with him?

ES: Well, he visited Heart Mountain on a missionary.

JS: Okay. You made contact.

ES: Then I was farm superintendent, so I made contact.

JS: Oh.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

JS: When you got here, what was Japantown like?

ES: Well, Japantown, the greater portion was boarded up, but some portions were subleased. And like I said earlier, subleased to pawnbrokers. So that's when I found out that these, that's where the stolen property came to. But I, I walked to Chinatown, I spoke to these merchants and so forth, not identifying myself as Japanese, they thought probably I was Chinese or Filipino. Because there were other ethnic groups in large number in Japantown.

JS: Was there any reason why you wanted to keep your ethnicity a secret?

ES: Well, there's no reason to hide my int-, I mean, ethnic background, but supposing I get in trouble, you know, that'll make it bad for everybody.

JS: You were one of the few Japanese here, then, at that time?

ES: Yes. There was another family which is very close to, to me, came to Cupertino one month earlier.

JS: Oh, who was that?

ES: James K. Yamamoto.

JS: Now, what condition was your farm in?

ES: My home place, which was taken care of, was beautiful, just the way I left it. But the other farm was just eyesore.

JS: And why did that become an eyesore?

ES: Well, labor shortage and... it's primarily labor shortage, but when one has more than he can take care of, which land he's gonna neglect, that's how it turned out.

JS: What kind of farm problems did you face to get operational again?

ES: After I came back?

JS: Yeah.

ES: Well, I had no problems disposing my fruit, because they didn't discharge me from my organization which I belonged.

JS: Which was the...

ES: Santa Clara Pear Association.

JS: Now, while you were gone then --

ES: Pear Leagues.

JS: -- who was taking care, I mean, Mr. Seely was taking care of your property, but was he also harvesting the fruit and, so they didn't rot on the vine, I mean, on the tree?

ES: Well, he harvested fruit, but he had no connection with the association I belonged to.

JS: How long, did it take very long to get your farm back and running again, or not?

ES: Well, home place I had no trouble. I stepped in the day he left.

JS: How about the other park?

ES: Other farms it took me three years to get it back in production.

JS: And the other park, what kind of crops around those?

ES: They were all orchards.

JS: Okay. Pears or a variety?

ES: All pears.

JS: Did you... excuse me. Did any non-Japanese -- other than Mr. Seely -- help you to reestablish your farm after you got back from Heart Mountain?

ES: Well, I had no real contacts to reestablish my farm outside of the business relationship we had with the merchants.

JS: Did anybody help you in terms of setting up your farm again or anything like that?

ES: No, because the home ranch was just perfect.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

JS: Now, when you, when you started, when you came back from the war, how was it, how was your -- excuse me, how was your role in the operation of the farm after the war different from, say, before the war?

ES: Well, see, we belonged to a large organization, and we have no problems whatsoever. They did not cancel our membership during the war, so I cannot say that we had difficulty in operating the farm, although we lost many leases and we could not grow truck crops, 'cause we had no land.

JS: In terms of day-to-day operation...

ES: They did operation.

JS: Did you, did your role change after the war, then, from before the war?

ES: In what way?

JS: Well, your father is now very, he's an elderly man, so he's not running the farm, and you, before the war you were helping him.

ES: Yeah.

JS: Is that correct? So now, after the war and after you returned...

ES: It's vice-versa.

JS: Yeah. So now you are the head of the farm?

ES: Yeah, operator.

JS: You're the head man, then, huh?

ES: I was the operator 'til he passed on, and then we inherited the property from him, 'cause he had absolutely a right to hold his property.

JS: Now, were your siblings in any way involved in the operation of the farm after the war?

ES: No.

JS: No?

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

JS: Did you see any differences between how Japanese farmers who organized after the war than, say, before the war?

ES: Well, you know, this whole evacuation just broke up all the little farms. When they come back, they had no farms or anything to go to. So that made it very impossible for, to start over again, except those persons who owned the farm, and, like the large growers. They were able to start over again, or there's, there's some cases that property owners assigned their property for the duration of the war, and when they come back, says, "You gave us the title to the property. It's not yours, it's mine." In other cases where the evacuee had returned, they're willing to give it back to you, but after you look at what they did, did do, it's all, all the equipment's worn out, or lots of it lost, and they had to start all over again. There were very few people who were lucky enough to have everything held together.

JS: So it was really a great reduction in the number of Japanese farmers, then, because of the war?

ES: Oh, yes. I might say there weren't hardly any Japanese farming after the war, 'cause they had no place to go, and they were most, before the war, they were mostly sharecroppers or renters.

JS: So there was you and maybe how many others after the war?

ES: Had property here in the valley?

JS: Uh-huh.

ES: Oh, I think there were more than a dozen.

JS: Okay. Whereas before the war --

ES: But some of 'em lost their property because they had assigned the property to them, and when they come back, says, "There, my property's mine."

JS: You maintained your activities with the Peach Growers -- I mean, Pear Growers' Association in Santa Clara Valley. What did that involve?

ES: Well, we belonged to a co-op organization that would buy together, would pack fruit and market it together. So we had been able to work together with other ethnic background farmers.

JS: So this organization was a mixture of different ethnic groups, then? It wasn't just strictly Japanese or anything like that?

ES: No.

JS: Okay. How did you recruit farm workers after the war?

ES: After the war, all the other farmers who had been farming here had Mexican laborers from Mexico. We joined that group, and that's how we got our help.

ES: Did any problems arise during the farm labor movement, like Cesar Chavez's attempt to unionize?

ES: No, no.

JS: You didn't have any difficulties with that?

ES: No.

JS: Okay. How many farm workers do you employ today?

ES: Today? None. Self.

JS: You, you do your own work by yourself, huh? You're still sending...

ES: No, no. I just have a hobby farm.

JS: Oh, okay, hobbies. You're no longer sending produce to market?

ES: No.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

JS: You told me, or I heard about Walter Cronkite contacting you when you first got back. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

ES: Well, when they come back in January '44, Walter Cronkite, out of the blue sky, called me, and he said, "You took some footage of camp, and I'd like to see it." And of course, I was kind of reluctant to say, "Yes, you can have it," because I just began to wonder how he's gonna use it. Anyway, after a number of telephone calls from New York, so I finally said, "I'll loan it to you." So after he's seen the picture, he says, "You fellows had a swell time." I says, "Well, you gotta see the other side." And so he said, "Well, I'm going to title my story 'Pride and Shame.'" So that's, he took the better side, and that's what he called it.

JS: I remember seeing it a long time ago and not realizing it was your footage. How did you manage to get a camera in there?

ES: Well, that's a long, long story. I've been taking pictures ever since I was a kid, and when I went to San Jose Teacher's College, I took photography class, and I learned a little bit how to take pictures and how to print and developing print, and learned about different papers I could use. Then that wasn't enough, I wanted to take a little more, so I took a course from University of California, and I learned a lot. What he took during the World War I in Germany, he said it was illegal there, but he had a big coat on and a big buttonhole, so through the buttonhole the lens showed out, and that's how he took the picture. So I knew that, and I was just about to do that myself, but the jobs that I got and the people, the Caucasian personnel respected me, I just didn't have the guts to do things like that. Even in Santa Anita when evacuee stuff had in the truck, I was just about to do it, but I said, "Gosh, if I did that, I'd probably cry the rest of my life," so even at camp. Well, I like to record history, been all my life trying to tell the story of the Isseis, our fathers and grandfathers and grandmothers. So I had little knowledge what was taking, happening in Japan, how difficult it was to get food and so forth. Every living creature in Japan was killed for, about food, so when I went back three years later there was not a bird in the air.

But you know, there was a ruling, WRA, the ten camps, were not permitted to take pictures. But Arkansas, way out in the boondocks, were able to take pictures and have 'em developed and so forth. But they took just pictures of family activities, and only pictures that show a great interest to community life was sawing wood for their wood stove. But after staying in camp, I wanted to record some of this, because I'll probably never see it again. So I went one day to the project director and told him my story, that I'd been a historian. This is a kid who wants to record things, and I wanted to, said, "What do you want?" I says, "I want a camera to take pictures to record these things. I've taken courses at San Jose Teacher's College and also University of California, and I wanted to do this." He says, "I am not able to tell you, but I'll wire WRA and ask Dillon Myers if you can have a camera." So I went next day and got called in the office and says, "You may have a camera," so that opened up a camera for Heart Mountain Relocation Center. But I was just about ready to come back home here, so a lot of winter activities and some of the lesser activities I wasn't able to take.

JS: I also heard that your pears became an ingredient in the Del Monte fruit cocktail.

ES: Oh, yeah.

JS: How did that come about?

ES: Well, we belonged to this pear organization, and that's the reason how that came in. I belonged to the Pear League, and that takes in all the growers here that belongs to sort of a educational club.

JS: And that's how you got your pears into the Del Monte fruit, fruit cocktail? [Laughs]

ES: [Laughs] Yeah, we, in fact, we sold some pears to Del Monte.

JS: Okay, okay. All right.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

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.