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-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: So you were... you spent about a year in Heart Mountain and then went to Gila and when did you leave Gila?

JN: Let's see... we left Gila January 26, 1945.

RP: And where did you go?

JN: We went to our farm, Azusa, California. And that's where... well, I told you about the prejudice there. But also, you know, we said the banker was supposed to take care of the house and everything, manage it. But they didn't do a very good job because the house... the windows were all broken, the furniture was all stolen so we had to replace it all. And so that part was pretty hard on my parents I think and so that part was not too good. And so that's where I kind of remember going back to the thing. And our neighbors were still good, they really treated us good. And our cats and dogs were still alive. [Laughs] Amazing.

RP: Mama Cat, right? Was it Mama Cat?

JN: Mama Cat, Mama Kitty. We call her Kitty even though she was a mama. [Laughs]

RP: How did you travel from Gila back to Azusa?

JN: We had a car. We bought a car and my brother drove us back so five of us went back.

RP: And what was the feeling of the family emotionally about leaving Gila and coming back to Azusa?

JN: I think we were kind of scared because we didn't know what it was going to be like outside and we were worried about what was going to happen to us. I mean we didn't have soldiers to protect us or anything and so in that respect we had to be careful. And then when we went back there was prejudice, so it was there.

RP: And the war was still on too.

JN: Yeah, the war still on but we had land and we had people in the service so they trusted us, so they said, "Yeah, you can leave, you can go."

RP: You came back just shortly after the exclusion order had been lifted, you know, allowing Japanese Americans back to the West Coast. I think that was January 2, 1945. And so three weeks later, you were coming back, might have been one of the first families that --

JN: Yeah, we were one of the first families back in California. That's why the prejudice is really there.

RP: And fortunately you still had your house and you had your --

JN: Yeah, we had a place to go. Most of the people didn't have a place to go see. And see during, right after the war, you know, Japanese couldn't find a place to live because the soldiers were coming back and they were the first priority. They'd rather rent to a soldier than a, you know, than somebody that's Japanese. So they had a hard time finding a place so on our farm we converted our cellar to an apartment and our barn to an apartment so we had two families living with us 'cause they couldn't find a place to live. So that was an experience too. And as soon as... after a few months they found a place to live so they moved out. But then during that period of time, you know, we had three families living in one place.

RP: Were these families that had lived in Azusa before the war? Did you know them already?

JN: Yeah, we knew them before, we were good friends.

RP: But they had just had no place to come back to so you supported them?

JN: Yeah, we helped them out.

RP: Do you remember their names, the families?

JN: One was Kishimoto and the other one was... my mind is... in my old age I forget everything.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.