Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: John Nakada Interview
Narrator: John Nakada
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 23, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-njohn-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with John Nakada and our interview is taking place in the Marriott Residence Inn at the Portland airport in Portland, Oregon. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Mark Hatchmann, and we'll talking with John today about his experiences at the Pomona Assembly Center, the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center and then finally the Gila River Relocation Center. And of course his memories of before during and after camp will also be included in this discussion. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library. And John, do I have permission to go ahead and conduct our interview?

JN: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much for coming today and sharing a very special compelling story that you have. I'd like to start at the very beginning and have you share your birthdate and where you were born.

JN: Okay, I was born in Los Angeles, California, January 14, 1931.

RP: And what was your given name at birth, John?

JN: Beg your pardon?

RP: Your given name at birth?

JN: John Hachiro Nakada, middle name is H-A-C-H-I-R-O. And the meaning of that is that's the eighth son, just information, that's all. [Laughs]

RP: And so where did the name John come from?

JN: My parents were basically... had a Japanese religion and then when they came here and after a few years they went to Christianity. So after the five or six people were born, after that we were all given Christian names, American names. So that's kind of how it came about. So after all the Japanese first names became all English first names. But then middle names, they always kept the Japanese in it, that's why my middle name is Hachiro.

RP: Now did you have a nickname while you were growing up?

JN: No, it was always John. And when I went to interview, when I went to Japan, you know, I told them my name was John Hachiro Nakada and they never mentioned John, they always said Hachiro. [Laughs] Crazy, huh?

RP: Let's talk about your... some of your family background starting with your father. What was his name?

JN: It's Ginzo Nakada.

RP: And where was he born and raised, John?

JN: He was born in Kin, Okinawa, Japan.

RP: And do you know roughly what year he was born?

JN: The year he was born? He was born March 14, 1884.

RP: And do you know much about his early life in Okinawa?

JN: Not very much, all I know is he was a farmer there. His parents were farmers and mainly they grew a lot of sweet potatoes because that was kind of the food that the Okinawans ate instead of Irish potatoes. But you grow sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes the same way roughly.

RP: Now was he the oldest son in his family?

JN: I don't remember. I don't know very much about his family and also I don't know... I've never met his parents and I really don't even know his uncles or aunts or anything. So I don't know anything about his family, that much.

RP: And Kin, Okinawa, Kin would be the village?

JN: It's a town in the southern part of Japan and it's a warm place. It's like Hawaii. They have papayas and bananas and it's real nice, it's warm. When I visited there it was nice.

RP: Now when did you visit there?

JN: I visited there four times now. So the last time I visited was two years ago.

RP: And are there still members of your father's family living?

JN: I have some cousins but that's about all. All the rest of them have died off.

RP: Were you able to discover more about your family history on your trips to Okinawa?

JN: Yeah, I did. Like about six or seven years, seven or eight years ago when I first went to Japan, my aunt was still living and so I talked to her and it was a lot of fun. She told me some good stories about my mother. [Laughs]

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.