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

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RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historical Site and today this afternoon we're talking with Richard Sakurai. And our interview is taking place in the Marriott Residence Inn at the Portland airport. The date of our interview is July 23, 2010. Behind the camera is Mark Hatchmann, in front of the camera is Richard Potashin, and we'll be discussing Richard's experiences as an incarceree at the Minidoka War Relocation Center during World War II and also his experiences growing up in the Troutdale area of Oregon before the war. Our interview will be archived in the Park's Library. And Richard, do I have your permission to go ahead and conduct our interview?

RS: Yes.

RP: And can I refer to you as Dick?

RS: Yes, please do.

RP: Dick, okay, alright, well thank you Dick for coming and sharing some of your experiences with us this afternoon. I'd like to begin our interview by asking you to give us your birthdate and where you were born.

RS: I was born in Portland, Oregon, on December 26, 1926.

RP: And can you give us your given name at birth?

RS: At birth I was named Shoichi Sakurai.

RP: And when did you obtain the Richard name?

RS: Well, I'm not really sure about this but I think it was about the time that I started going to school. And what I hear is that the teacher at the school was having difficulty with pronouncing Shoichi and so she wanted to have a different name. So either she or my uncle who happened to be working on my father's farm then, every once and a while he would come out and spend a while working on the farm. So it was either he or the teacher that said, well, let's call him Dick. And apparently I accepted that name and so for a long time I went by the name Dick. And then later on of course after I grew up and started to look around for work, I thought, well, I really ought to have a real... formalize that and so I formalized it into the name that Dick represents. So I went to some state office to have a name change and so I went in and added Richard to Shoichi Sakurai. And so my birth certificate was changed to reflect that and so formally in my twenties I became Richard. But before that, for most of my life up to that time, I was known as Dick and the grade school and high school records are listed as Dick but then I figured well that's not a real formal name so I figured I'd better get it listed under Richard.

RP: Do you have any understanding of the meanings of your first and last name, Japanese names?

RS: Well, the last name, Sakurai, is sakura which means cherry, cherry tree. And i which means "a well" and so that means that at least according to my parents probably way back there was a well underneath a cherry tree where the family lived, so that's where that name came from. And I think that's probably what that name comes from for all the different people who are named Sakurai. Shoichi originally was named for my being born on the first year, ichi meaning "one," of the Showa emperorship, so first year Showa and Shoichi. However, later on my parents said well they really made a mistake, we can't name our son after the Japanese emperor who is the one that's the cause of this war. So they said well let's... we'll keep the name Shoichi but we'll change the meaning of it. Now I'm not quite sure what the new meaning is, but they wrote that name with different characters. It's still pronounced Shoichi, but it's got different characters, it still has the "one" in it, the ichi and so it has a different meaning. But I'm not quite sure what that meaning is and of course I no longer have my parents to ask so all I can say is I'm not quite sure.

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