Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Lily Kajiwara Interview
Narrator: Lily Kajiwara
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-klily-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This afternoon we're talking with Lily, your last name, how do you pronounce that?

LK: Kajiwara.

RP: Kajiwara. Lily Kajiwara. Our interview is taking place at the Marriott Residence Inn at the Portland airport. The date of our interview is July 24, 2010. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, the videographer is Mark Hatchmann, and we'll be discussing Lily's experience incarcerated in the Portland Assembly Center and then later at Minidoka camp as well. And with particular emphasis on her experiences as a teacher in the camp. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library, and Lily, do I have your permission to go ahead and conduct our interview?

LK: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much. I know this is a little difficult for you, but we'll try to make it as comfortable as possible. First of all, we want to start at the very, very beginning, and that's... can you give us your birthdate and where you were born?

LK: July 26, 1924. So in other words, my birthday will be in a couple of days.

RP: And what was your given name at birth?

LK: It's Ririko Sakurai. The first name is Ririko.

RP: Can you spell that for us?

LK: It's Japanese, it's R-I-R-I-K-O.

RP: And do you know what that means in Japanese?

LK: No, but my grandfather named me. I have no idea what it means. And the last name is Sakurai.

RP: That's from the Japanese word for "cherry"?

LK: Cherry.

RP: I think Dick explained yesterday as a well as a spring of water?

LK: Yeah, sakura, "i" is the well. Sakura is the cherry tree, and the i is the well.

RP: Do you know if you were born at the family farm?

LK: No, I was born in Portland. My parents lived in Portland at the time they were, I was born. We didn't move out to the farm 'til later.

RP: Can you share with us a little bit of your, what you know of your family background?

LK: Yes. My grandfather came to the United States probably in the very late 1890s or early 1900s, because my mother was born in Portland in 1905. Now my father came when he was fifteen, but he came to join his father who was already here. My father was educated in Japan until fifteen, he lived with his grandparents because his mother had died, but his father was already in the United States. He came to join him when he finished school, I think he was fifteen when he came.

RP: And what was his father's name?

LK: My grandfather? I think it was Sakurai Mankichi, I think, I'm not positive.

RP: And what was your father's grandfather doing in the United States?

LK: He was working on the railroads.

RP: Like many Issei.

LK: Yeah.

RP: Hard labor.

LK: I think they worked at Union Pacific, I think, because my grandfather's brother was in Montana and he died while working for the... he was hit by a tree or something, and they had, he died. So they were in Montana working for the railroad.

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