Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Iwao Peter Sano Interview
Narrator: Iwao Peter Sano
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: November 30, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-siwao-01-0002

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TI: So tell me when and where you were born.

IS: Okay, in Brawley, California. And I usually, it's not necessary, but I say, "Brawley, Imperial Valley, California," and I have to point out where Imperial Valley is, and tell 'em it's 25 miles from the Mexican border.

TI: And it's because most people don't know where Brawley is and that's why you say "Imperial Valley"?

IS: Yes.

TI: And so that's where, and then when were you born?

IS: And that was June 9, 1924.

TI: Good, okay. You mentioned him a little bit, we talked a little bit about your father giving you your name. But what was your father's name and where was he from?

IS: It's Ichizo... I don't have to spell that. Ichizo Sano, and he was born in Shizuoka prefecture, right at the foot of Mount Fuji.

TI: And tell me what your father's family did for work.

IS: They were farmers and I think he had one older brother, and therefore he had to leave Japan. And Shizuoka is, it's not like a farming place, I mean, it's a typical Japanese farming place, rice paddies are very small. And so when he became of age to have to work, he didn't, he couldn't inherit any of the land, and so he had to move. And I guess that's when he decided to come to the United States. I don't know exactly, I should have checked up on that. But I don't know how old he was, but I guess he was in his very early twenties.

TI: Yeah, in your book I think you said about twenty-one, the year was about 1905?

IS: That's when he arrived in Mexico, yes, in Vera Cruz on this, it was a freighter. He got on a freighter, I don't know if it was by choice or that was the only boat that was just left, and he was able to get on. I think he got a job on the boat to work, and he came to, he came to Vera Cruz in Mexico, and he got off there.

TI: And so do you think that was by plan that he was gonna get off at Vera Cruz, or do you think he just decided to jump off the ship at that point?

IS: That I don't know. I often think about that. I just heard that he landed and that's where he got off, and that's all he ever told me. And my older brother might know a little more about it, But that is where he got off. And his goal was to come to the United States, so right away he started walking. And it took him two years, working and, working and walking. He did odd farm work, and I thought something like even in a mine, some kind of a mine, he did some work, too. But it took him two years, and in 1907, I don't know the month, but he was able to cross the border at El Paso, Texas.

TI: When... I heard about this, so your father essentially walked from Vera Cruz to Los Angeles, two years, and to do that, he would work these odd jobs to get enough money to keep going. It struck me as being a very persistent or tenacious person to be able to follow through.

IS: Yes, my brother sort of write, I think he introduces it in the book, but yes, and let's see. He walks to El Paso, and from there he takes a train. I mean, when we were kids we called them hobo, they jump on the train and, well, that was in the '30s they started using that kind of word, "hobo." But just like that, that's the way he got to Los Angeles, not on a passenger train, but jumping on a freight train and finally was able to come to Los Angeles.

TI: I'm curious, when did you find out about your father doing this? Was this as a boy he told you?

IS: Yeah, as we were growing up, we heard bits and pieces about that. And I guess, actually, my brother, after I had left for Japan, I think my brother became a little, he was in his last year in high school, so he did, during the summer, he did a lot of work with my father preparing for the crop. And he was able to talk a lot more with my father, it seems. So he knows more about it than I do, but we did hear bits about his life in Japan.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.