Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masahiro Nakajo Interview
Narrator: Masahiro Nakajo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: April 4, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nmasahiro-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Mas Nakajo. Our interview is taking place at the Japanese, Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California. The date of the interview is April 4, 2011, our cameraman is Kirk Peterson, our interviewer is Richard Potashin. And we'll be discussing Mas's experiences at the Manzanar War Relocation Center during World War II. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library. And Mas, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

MN: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much for coming down today and it's great to have you here sharing some of your history with us.

MN: You're welcome.

RP: Tell us where you were born and what year.

MN: I was born in a place called Moneta, California, in... right now I think many years back they incorporated into Gardena.

RP: Okay.

MN: So, Moneta is not even on the map I don't think. So anyway, I was born 5/17/27.

RP: Okay. And Moneta would be spelled M-O-N-E-T-A?

MN: Yeah, Moneta.

RP: Moneta.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And that's a Japanese word?

MN: No. I don't think so.

RP: Oh, okay. Uh-huh.

MN: But all they did was divided the Gardena railroad track and one side was Moneta and the other side was Gardena. I think they incorporated so no more Moneta and Gardena now, see.

RP: Okay. And, what was your full name at birth?

MN: Masahiro Nakajo.

RP: Okay.

MN: Masahiro Nakajo.

RP: Do you know what your Japanese name means?

MN: Masa means "vast." Hiro means "vast knoll" or something. Masa means "vast." Knoll, Hiro means "vast knoll."

RP: Knoll? Like N --

MN: Yeah, so vast knoll like this.

RP: Okay. All right.

MN: Then by last name, Nakajo, naka means "inside" and Jo is the "castle." You know, Japanese castle, the samurai castle. That's what it is, inside the castle.

RP: Now your family, you have a connection with the samurai culture in Japan.

MN: Yeah, my great-grandfather, I think, or... it's goes back to the fifteenth century, the Nakajo family. So, great-grandfather I think served.. maybe it was Saigo, Seigo Takamori, the big guy with the little dog, bulldog on the side. My father served under him I think, great-grandfather. I think that was the era when the Japanese military, government had taken over and the samurai is still there and they had their... the movie The Last Samurai is, that's what I think the history was that...

RP: That kind of story.

MN: Yeah, right.

RP: Reflects your family background.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Oh, interesting. And your... can you give us your father's name?

MN: Masataka.

RP: And that's M-A...

MN: S-A-T-A-K-A.

RP: T-A-K-A.

MN: Yeah, all the Nakajo family, from way up down, it's all Masall Masa. Even my younger sister, Masako. Masatsugu is my younger brother. Masahiro me. Then all the uncles, Masamiki, Masamoto... you saw in Japan in Kagoshima-ken.

RP: That's where your dad came from?

MN: Pardon?

RP: Did your dad come from Kagoshima?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Oh okay.

MN: Yeah. Kagoshima-shi, a city of Kagoshima.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Have you been back to visit?

MN: Well, only, I remember when I think right after the Depression, the economic situation was real bad so Mother took us to Japan to leave us there for the duration, I guess, until my... they had to work on a farm like a migrating worker so they, we couldn't follow them see so that's why she sent us to Japan. And left us, left us with her sister, but Kagoshima, my father's side, we went to visit. But we didn't stay there. We went to my mother's side in Kumamoto.

RP: Oh, Kumamoto.

MN: Yeah, so we stayed there three and a half years, in Kumamoto, a place called Waifumachi.

RP: Can you spell that for us?

MN: Y-... let's see, Y-... let's see, W-I-Y-fu, F-U, machi.

RP: Machi, okay. That's where you stayed?

MN: Yeah, for about three and a half, about three and a half years. And we just got back, I think it was late May of 1939, right before the war started.

RP: So overall you were there about four or five years?

MN: No, about three years, three and a half years.

RP: And a half years.

MN: Yeah.

RP: So how old were you when you left?

MN: I was eight years old, going on... seven, after I got there I turned eight. So when I got back I was about eleven years old, eleven...

RP: And who else went with you?

MN: Oh, my younger brother. He was not even five years old but my sister was one year younger than I am.

RP: So your sister, your brother, and you.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And what was your sister's name?

MN: Masako.

RP: Masako?

MN: Masako.

RP: Okay. And so your mom took you over there?

MN: Yeah.

RP: On the boat?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. So how, what was that like for you?

MN: Well, we couldn't... we couldn't adopt it right away. So we had a lot of ups and downs and we'd get into fights and there's a lot of prejudice. They called us gaijin. That means foreigner.

RP: Gaijin?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Did you have to... you had to defend yourself?

MN: Oh yeah. On top of that, my guardian, the uncles and aunt that we stayed with, they get called in from the school principal. And, in other words, they'd tell the story of why they would pull them because we weren't conformed to their rules and regulations. Because Japan gets pretty cold in the wintertime, and Mom knows that. So she used to send us like a navy peacoat, for wintertime, wool socks, things like that. Well, we couldn't wear those because school regulation forbids that, see. All you could do was wear a uniform, school uniform, that's it.

RP: What was your uniform?

MN: Well it's a, it's a trouser, black trouser. And it's a two-piece job. You have a jacket, you have a cap. And it's a, the shoe you wear, it's not leather. It's rubber, rubber, canvas and rubber. It's a canvas but the rubber is moulded onto the canvas. And that's all.

RP: So how were your language school, language skills when you went to Japan? What were they like?

MN: You mean for, in Japanese?

RP: Yeah.

MN: Not, not too great.

RP: Had you been attending Japanese language school before you were sent over?

MN: No. We were too young yet.

RP: So you, but did you speak Japanese in the home with your parents?

MN: Yeah.

RP: So you had some --

MN: Yeah, right, yeah.

RP: -- some background. But the way Japanese is spoken in Japan --

MN: No, [Shakes head.] You gotta stay there. You gotta use it otherwise off, right off plane you can't... but even if you spoke with your family, some of the Japanese is broken.

RP: Right.

MN: So we got by as years went by, at least we could understand the uncles and aunt. They say things but they try to make it simple where we could understand. Not the way we usually spoke with each other. But when we listened to them a lot of times we can't understand what they're talking about.

RP: And there's the, sometimes there's dialects too.

MN: Right, and especially my father's side, Kagoshima dialect, oh, it's a... when they talk, Kagoshima guys, they talk and I just sit there and try to make out what they're saying but it's pretty hard because their dialect is so different. Now it's a, you know, normally it's a Tokyo dialect. That's the most simple way. You could understand it, but when you have Kumamoto-ken dialect, Kagoshima-ken dialect, yeah, it's pretty difficult.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: So you're, you're born and you grew up in America now you find yourself in Japan.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And how did, did you eventually adjust to the school?

MN: Yeah, eventually. Yeah, right.

RP: And did the kids pick on you?

MN: Yeah. Well, after that they get, you get picked on but it's gets kind of old so they kind of leave us alone, see. But I, there's one thing, most people think you make, the aunt make bento for you. And they put all the goodies in, rice, and you know, so you take that and there's a box that's heated so you put all your bento in there while you're in class. Lunchtime comes, you try to go get your lunch, bento bako, it's not there. Some kids got it and ate it. So we were out of, or I was out of lunch a lot of times. So later on I think they put a lock on it so that only the teacher could open it up.

RP: He's stealing your lunch.

MN: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah. They know we're like, we're foreigners. So they like to pick on you.

RP: So what did your aunt's husband do in Japan?

MN: My aunt and uncle, they had what you call a junkyard. All the Japanese people, they go collecting metals, even hairs and things. Then they bring, bring that to my uncle's place and sell it. These cans, you know, metal... so my uncle used to weigh it and pay them so much. Just like a recycling outfit. So, and they, after enough to make a big ball and tie it so they used to, he used to send it out, ship it out. So, it's a regular junkyard, recycling.

RP: So did you get exposed to other elements of Japanese culture while you were there?

MN: No, not really.

RP: Did you, were you involved in any judo or kendo while you were going to school?

MN: No, I was, I was too young at the time, yeah.

RP: How about the holidays, did, did your aunt and uncle celebrate Japanese holidays?

MN: Yeah, like, let's see, they call it Tanibata, Tanibata means a farm festival. You know, Tanibata, I think. That's one of the... then New Year's, naturally New Year's. Things like that. I don't remember other, other things.

RP: Did you get to, did your aunt and uncle travel with you at all in Japan while you were there?

MN: No.

RP: No?

MN: No. No we, we stayed, I stayed mostly in right there. Never had a chance to travel. And my uncle and my aunt never, they don't travel.

RP: So the area that you, you lived in, was it primarily urban or a rural area, farming area?

MN: It's, it's urban. You know, a little village town. Yeah.

RP: And how did you personally, as a child did you have any feelings about being sent over there? Did you feel like your parents had abandoned you?

MN: Well...

RP: Being apart for three years.

MN: One thing I understood, they explained it that since the economy was, after depression, so they didn't have a regular established job or anything in one place where we could stay and go to school. So only way, they had to go out and migrate, farm workers. So they had to leave us some place so she figured the dollar, U.S. dollar is so many more into yen. And that way we could afford, you know. So I think my mother used to send something like ten or fifteen dollars per each of us to take care of, well help with the food and the clothing, uniform. I think that's, that's the reason why we were sent over there.

RP: Okay.

MN: Actually, well, when you're young yet, young like that but you at the moment you don't understand so you just go with it. So you take a long boat ride from San Pedro and you take to Japan. Takes about eleven or twelve days.

RP: And what was that like, the boat ride?

MN: I get seasick. At first two days is okay. But once you get out in the open, and your boat, it feels like this. And then... and that's what makes us real bad.

RP: And did you go on a, was it a Japanese vessel that you went back on?

MN: Yeah. Asahi Maru.

RP: Asahi Maru.

MN: Yeah, things like that.

RP: And did you go with other people? Were there other people...

MN: Japanese people?

RP: Japanese people...

MN: Yeah.

RP: Were there, were there other Niseis, young Niseis...

MN: Yeah, young kids about our age? Yeah. Yeah.

RP: Were there any in your neighborhood that, that you, that you lived in in Japan? Did you meet other Nisei kids while you were there?

MN: No, no.

RP: No?

MN: No. No.

RP: But you remember some on the boat going over.

MN: Yeah. In fact we played on the boat all that time.

RP: Wow, that's quite an experience for a young kid.

MN: Yeah, it was. But at that time, after you come back and you start grow teenager, after that you get into adulthood, but still, all that thing you went through, it sticks with you. It just don't go away.

RP: Right. Right.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: So you came back when you were almost twelve.

MN: Eleven. About eleven years old.

RP: And you came back with a strong grasp of the Japanese language.

MN: Yeah. Okay. So, when we came back we have to enroll in a junior high school or grammar school. It was grammar... let's see, yeah, kindergarten through sixth grade is called grammar school or elementary school. So we had to enroll in that. Trouble was we knew our math. But language, English, we had to go to summer school and more or less get caught up in that. We, we did that for two summers. Yeah. Finally... but still you're not, your grade is not, not up to par. You're still about half a semester behind.

Off Camera: Can I ask something about when you were going to school in Japan, when you went to school there?

MN: Yeah.

Off Camera: Did you learn anything about what was... I mean, Japan was going through a big military buildup at that time.

MN: Okay, at that time when I was there well, you know between China and Japan was... and Japan invaded China in 1937. And they went through like Nanking, China. They conquered that place and all this. Shanghai and all that. And Japanese troops, "Banzai, banzai." The local town there, they light up the chouchin. Chouchin, you know chouchin? Thing with the candle. They parade with it. They call that chouchin. And all the people just parade the whole town, celebrate the conquer in China. So then military wise, while I was there, right before we came back, Aunt and Uncle's son was in Manchuria with the Japanese army. So I met him when he came back for the leave from Manchuria, on a, on like a furlough. That's when I met him. And I think his rank was corporal. And that's, that's all I know but he's a Japanese soldier. I think after the Pearl Harbor, United States went in with the war with Japan I think he, I don't know, maybe he got sent back to Manchuria.

RP: You don't, you don't know what happened to him?

MN: No. And I met my father's older brother's son. He was in Manchuria too, as a Japanese soldier. But at that time I think the Russians, he was under Russian prisoner, you know, because Russia declared war on Japan just about the end. And that's when he was a Russian prisoner of war. So they had, I think they had a hard time.

RP: Just to go back a little bit, when your father came to America, where did he originally settle?

MN: I think it was... well, he came through Seattle. Seattle. And he settled in the, California. He had a... San Pedro, California, I think he had a little, what they call a, they make kamaboko. You know what kamaboko is?

RP: No.

MN: It's, they grind up fish and make a fish cake. They call that kamaboko. And he had a little factory in San Pedro, California.

RP: And he worked there or did he own it?

MN: He owned it. But at that time the most of the ingredient they used is barracuda fish. Okay. And they used to net that, commercially. But the fish and game they, no more. They cut that out. You cannot net, net it, you have to fish for it, see. And that's when he couldn't afford to.

RP: He did, he did quite a few things looking for something to wrap a career around.

MN: Yeah. From there he went, he went to, I think he came up towards Sacramento way. If I remember from Mom talked, they worked in a some kind of olive farm or orchard or something or asparagus farm, in, near Walnut Grove, Walnut Grove.

RP: Not too far from here.

MN: Little bit off of San Fran -- I mean Sacramento, Sacramento there. That's where they, that's where they met, see.

RP: Your parents...

MN: Yeah.

RP: And, your mother's name again?

MN: My mother's name is Asano, is first name.

RP: Okay.

MN: And her first husband, he passed away, but his name was Takata.

RP: Takata, okay.

MN: That's when my half-brother and half-sister come in.

RP: Okay.

MN: Same mother, different father.

RP: And was, and she was married in Japan to this gentleman, Takata?

MN: Takata, yes.

RP: And they had two...

MN: And they came over, yeah.

RP: They came over here.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Mr. Takata.

MN: Yeah, right.

RP: Okay. And the names of the two kids, your half-brother and half-sister?

MN: Yeah, they had two kids.

RP: What are their names?

MN: Oh, his name is Jim Minoru Takata.

RP: Okay. And your...

MN: Sister is, half-sister named Donna Shizuka.

RP: Shizuka, okay. And where did, where did they settle when they came to the United States?

MN: I guess they were with the parents. Yeah... oh no, this, like Mom sent him to Japan too. Yeah. So like my sister and the half-sister and half-brother, I think they spend about five years in Japan. Yeah. But, you know, funny thing, when my mom took us there and the teacher -- the half-brother, half-sister went too -- he was still there. So he had us too. And so I think when she took us she bought a stuffed turtle or stuffed tortoise and a stuffed crocodile, about like this, had it stuffed, and she present it to this school when she took us.

RP: Really.

MN: Yeah. So I remember, I remember that. Yeah, I asked her why you were taking this. She said, "Well, the, your sister and brother was in same school and it's the same teacher so I got to present this to the teacher so he could keep it in the classroom."

RP: That's really neat.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Let's see... so your parents also then got into farming in the Garden Grove area?

MN: Yeah, yeah. Father had a 40 acre strawberry farm. In, in Orange County. I think the place was called Garden Grove. And now it's Disneyland, yeah. But he had a 40 acre leased strawberry farm there. And in 1931 that, the Long Beach earthquake, then the Depression. And, you know, he had to just... bankrupt. But I remember the earthquake. I never forget that earthquake even though I was about five, five or six years old.

RP: So what do you remember about it?

MN: Our whole three-bedroom, four-bedroom house... see, when you build a house when you're a farmer, you go different places farming. So you never put a house on a solid foundation. It's on a stilt. You know, about maybe two-foot, three-foot, your house on a stilt. Well, when the earthquake came I remember the house that was on a stilt, it shifted back ten feet off the stilt, I remember. Then you look at the strawberry farm, the field, it's like an ocean wave. I remember that. Then for your irrigation for the strawberry, they had a big concrete pipe going to about maybe seven or eight feet. That's where the water comes out, see. And that busted so the water was shootin' up and everything. But I never forget that and we wouldn't go back in the house to sleep because the aftershock and all that. So we just get our blanket and mattress and just laid out in the open and go to sleep that night. And even when you're sleeping that thing, you could feel the after shake, after shock.

RP: So were you in the house when the quake hit?

MN: Yeah, yeah. But we got out before it shifted. Yeah, but when, when you're standing on the ground and when see your earth, earth just rolling it's a hell of a feeling. Then on top of that I think my father and, had a crew that harvested strawberries. I think about ten or fifteen people -- my half-sister and my mom used to cook you know for supper and all that -- so just when they're ready to sit down for the dinner, about five, five-thirty, that's when it, the earthquake struck. So that part I remember really well.

RP: You don't forget those things.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Geez, wow. Now, did your, you said that your father came from a sort of a samurai background.

MN: Yes.

RP: So he hadn't had any previous farming, farming experience, had he?

MN: No. He, he came over to the United States under ag. Ag, what do they call it, visa.

RP: Right. Laborer...

MN: Yeah, he came as an ag visa. So strawberry, you know strawberry, that went bad. So after that he just worked on a farm as a laborer around Orange County.

RP: And he went up as far as, into Ventura, San Fernando Valley.

MN: Yeah. See when, when we were in Japan, sent to Japan, migrating workers, you know, vegetable, from yeah, San Fernando Valley all the way up to Oxnard, Ventura, Oceano, Pismo Beach, out there. So they had all the fresh farm, vegetable farm. So they had to harvest. So if one gets through you go to another place. It's all along the coast, up and down.

RP: You talked about this group of workers that come in to harvest the strawberries.

MN: Uh-huh.

RP: Were they, what ethnicity were they?

MN: They were Latin, Spanish.

RP: Spanish?

MN: Yeah. Latinos.

RP: Latinos.

MN: Yeah, yeah. That's why a lot of time we have our Japanese bento, you know, Mom makes it, you know. And the Latinos have tortilla and beans. And we loved that stuff when we were kids. So we used to exchange. Yeah.

RP: Something different.

MN: Yeah, yeah. I never forget that, tortilla and beans.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: So do you have any other very early memories of the strawberry farm in Gardena, Garden Grove?

MN: Not really. I remember I think one, one time my father was, oh, was taking us to school, grammar school, he, we got in an accident, he got in an accident. Not major but you know. I remember that. But other than that, no, nothing.

RP: Did you, did you play on the farm? Do you remember...

MN: Well, we used to, my father had a Model T. And my, sometime my older half-brother he knows how to operate it. So those days you got three pedals. And you start the thing by [inaudible]. So I missed all of that. So we used to when we had a chance we used to start it our self, crank it or you know, start it, see. And a lot of time we forget which pedal to hit so the thing keeps on going. And that happened to, we had a Moreland, a truck, farm truck to haul strawberries to the market. And one day we started that thing and good thing it was in a compound, the gear, it just crawls. Well, it got started and start crawling and we had a, there's a railroad track on top so there was a gulley. And once it start to go we couldn't stop it so it kept on going and it finally fell into the gulley and that's when it stopped. And about time Father got home, boy, we caught hell. Yeah.

RP: Kids will be kids.

MN: Yeah. And we used to, my father used to hunt, hunt in Japan. So he knows his rifles, his twenty-twos, his shotguns and stuff. And he those and we used to see a lot of doves and stuff on a line. So we used to shoot them with twenty-twos. Father kept the twenty-twos so we used to just grab it and shoot those doves.

RP: Did you do any fishing as a kid?

MN: No. We never had a chance. We didn't live near the river or anything.

RP: So where did your father take his, market his strawberries to?

MN: I think that's, at that time I don't know if there was a... well, probably they had a marketing in Orange County someplace, in Anaheim or someplace there but I don't remember that. The main one was in L.A. Seventh Street, a wholesale market there. But he didn't go, I don't think he went that far. He probably went to some place where, everything they more or less dump it. Probably in Anaheim or Orange County, there someplace.

RP: How was your father as a dad?

MN: Pardon?

RP: How was your father as a dad? What...

MN: Well, a lot of times he doesn't say much. But when you do something wrong or when you start doing things, something wrong in front of people or guests or something, you don't, they don't holler at you or scold you. They just look at you. You look at him. You know right away that that's a no-no. But that, that's the way samurais are. They don't say much but he's still got that trait.

RP: A look.

MN: Yeah.

RP: He's got the samurai look.

MN: Right. Yeah.

RP: Okay, huh.

MN: So all we do is just look at his eye to eye. I could tell right away. Yeah. So anyway, after the strawberry and all that... migrating worker, then finally he came back into L.A. and went into a gardening business. And that's when we came back from Japan, 1939.

RP: 1939?

MN: Yeah.

RP: And...

MN: Stayed there in downtown, I mean uptown L.A. they call it uwamachi. That means uptown, uptown district in Los Angeles.

RP: Okay, and...

MN: It's, now it's Korean town. That, that area.

RP: And what did you call it earlier, what?

MN: Oh.

RP: Uptown in Japanese?

MN: Yeah, uwamachi.

RP Wamachi?

MN: Uwa, ooh-ahh, ooh-ahh. uwa means up.

RP: Okay.

MN: Machi means...

RP: Town.

MN: Town, yeah.

RP: And so your dad starts gardening and you rented a home there.

MN: Yes, yes.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: And you went to, you revisited your education at Hobart Elementary school?

MN: Yes. That's where, when I came back from Japan...

RP: You came back from Japan.

MN: That's where enrolled. He was from first to sixth grade. And in those, those time from sixth grade you graduate, then you go into seventh. Seventh through ninth is junior high school. Then from tenth on that will be high school.

RP: So what was the ethnic makeup of your school and your community where you lived?

MN: Well, mostly there's a lot of Japanese family living in uptown area. Even at, even though we, they had a Japanese school there, so we could, after grammar school, English school, three o'clock or two-thirty we'd get out of English school, then we'd go to Japanese school until about five-thirty. So there was quite a few Japanese families.

RP: And you, so you grew up with mostly Japanese friends?

MN: Yes, yeah.

RP: Did you have any contact with Caucasians at all?

MN: Oh, yeah.

RP: As, as a kid?

MN: But mostly when you, you mingle with the Japanese kids and you know, so, yeah. Most of the time you don't, I don't know, those days you just go stick with your own. You don't try to go mingle with the... those were the younger days. See, from there, from grammar school until the war came in 1941, I was in, I just got graduated from sixth grade and I just went into seventh grade at a junior high school. So I changed, different school called Berenda Junior High School.

RP: And did you walk to school?

MN: Yeah. We lived, I lived about four blocks from the junior high school there. So, we used to walk. And even come home for lunch too.

RP: So you, you weren't too far from Little Tokyo at time were you?

MN: No we, well, we still had to either drive or take a train, not train but streetcar.

RP: The Red cars?

MN: Yeah, red and like a P-car, they used to call it P-car too. You, you get on it and you transfer.

RP: What was Little Tokyo like? What were your, what are your remembrances of that community?

MN: Well, the first thing I remember is we used to go to this Chinese restaurant called Far East Cafe. In those days that place was really jumping. Every Japanese people that come from farmers and... they come on Sundays. See, farmers don't work Sundays so that's when they come in. And that's where they hit, Far East Cafe on First Street, L.A., Japantown.

RP: What was so good about that place?

MN: The food is different, Chinese food. Chow mein and chau siu and all that. It was good stuff. So we used to look forward to going to Little Tokyo there.

RP: Do you remember the Nisei Day Parades?

MN: Oh yeah, Nisei Week? Yes, oh yeah. That was after the, after we came back from camp.

RP: You started attending.

MN: Yeah. But they had it before the war broke out but we were too young and we lived in Orange County at that time so I think, I think we went back 1931 there, you know. The Nisei Week, girls got crowned. But I don't remember that. So after we got, came back from camp, then we started in again. And all the Little Tokyo, at that time when everybody came back, is different people was in there. But eventually I guess they moved out so the people that had business there came, came back. Especially that manju place, Mikawaya, that...

RP: Manju?

MN: Yeah, the manju place, yeah, I remember that. We used to go there and buy some manju with the... those are the things that we look forward to when we go to Japantown.

RP: Tell us, can you explain what manju is for, for the record?

MN: Manju is, it's a bean, beans, either you can have it whole, cooked whole or you could have it as a paste and it's inside there like a pan. Just that's all I... manju they call it.

RP: Did you, did you go to see movies in Little Tokyo as well?

MN: Not really, no. Yeah, we never had a chance to go to movies.

RP: People talk about going to Japanese movies, samurai movies and...

MN: Yeah, they had it. But only time I remember seeing is I think when I was, we were young before going to Japan. This person that comes around with their projector, and they show the Japanese movies so they sent fliers out see and, come in to, Japanese people come in like a place like warehouse or things like that. They didn't have a permanent theater when we were... but Japantown has a permanent theater. But we never went to it. We were too far away.

RP: Was religion an important part of your early life?

MN: Not really. My mother was, she was really into Tenrikyo. That's Tenrikyo.

RP: Tenrikyo?

MN: Yeah. That's Shinto religion I think.

RP: Oh, okay.

MN: Tenrikyo.

RP: Tenrikyo. Okay, Shinto.

MN: Yeah, I think Shinto religion.

RP: Did she have a shrine in the house?

MN: She had a little thing, things and put it up. She had that, yeah. Then she used to go to the main Tenrikyo in Boral Heights. They have I think month, once a month gathering for all the Tenrikyo members that come from all over and that Sunday they'd celebrate. And they go through the ritual, Tenrikyo ritual and all that. And after that they have a banquet like. And we used to look forward to that because all the kids, the farming kids. And in those the marble, shoot marble, that was the thing. So we used to bring our marble and even marble they have regular glass marble and they have what they call aggregate now. And we used to bring all that stuff and compete with all the kids, marble contest.

RP: And did you, did you shoot marbles in Manzanar too?

MN: No.

RP: You were a little, little older.

MN: Yeah, I was too old.

RP: You were a certain age and you, you, I'm too old for that.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Did you have other interests or hobbies as a boy growing up?

MN: Well, hmm, I didn't have a hobby but I learned how to fish. Yeah, in Manzanar.

RP: Oh, in Manzanar?

MN: Yeah.

RP: We'll, we'll get to that in just a little bit. There's some good stories you have to talk about fishing. I want to get those.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: So having been to Japan, living in Japan for almost four years, you came back and hostilities between the two countries continued to grow. China, I mean Japan was, was still in China and do you, do you recall hearing about the tensions between the two countries? Did you have any, did your parents have any concerns or thoughts about an impending war?

MN: Oh, I don't think, I don't know. I don't think so. They talked, they talked about it 'cause when I was in Japan, 1937, Japan went to war with China and even got back to the States, they discuss about it but that's about it. So we knew it was still...

RP: Simmering.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Did they continue to send money back to their family in Japan after you guys got back from there?

MN: No. Just when we were there my mom used to send allotment for three of us. So, after that, after we came back that was it that they...

RP: Your dad was a gardener during this time before, before you went to Manzanar?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Was he involved in any associations or groups?

MN: Japanese... no, no, no. He was a, he was a loaner more or less.

RP: Now coming from a samurai, samurai background as he did, did he have any swords or any other paraphernalia?

MN: Not that I know of. I think all that stuff was, he left it in Japan. Yeah, even though they, the family had a lot of property in Japan, Kagoshima. And the older brothers, they stayed... oldest is more or less is the head of the household so he had the main house. So, all that stuff he, he left it in Japan. Even there was a property, even though the Nakajo family, they left the property even my father, they divide it up, but he didn't want to go back and claim it. He just left it. He didn't want to go back.

RP: He never went back.

MN: No, he didn't. Yeah, he liked to play baseball. That was his main thing in college, I mean, not college but while he was going to school in Japan. I mean as a teenager. He used to be a pitcher. Yeah. He, yakyuu, that's baseball in Japanese. That was his favorite sport, baseball.

RP: Baseball. And did he play it when he came to America?

MN: No. But he talked about it.

RP: Did he? Did he used to go to ballgames at all, watch the teams?

MN: No. No.

RP: There were quite a few teams around the L.A. area.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Japanese teams?

MN: Yeah.

RP: The league. San Fernando Aces and...

MN: All that stuff came in after... went into camp, you see different... the Montebello Gophers and that was a basketball teams. Then the San Fernando, there was a baseball team that came to Manzanar and they had leagues. All that stuff, after everybody got into camp was start coming out but before that he hardly noticed it. I didn't notice it.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: So what do you remember about December 7, 1941?

MN: That, all I know is... Japan, actually I didn't know about Hawaii. All it says, it's middle of the ocean island, Hawaiian Islands, between United States and Hawaii and Japan. It's middle of. And I didn't know Hawaii, what it was. I thought it was just a Hawaiian Island, no, no military or nothing. Well, we heard Japan bombed it. Then after that a lot of things happened. They get, we got notice in February that we had to be ready for evacuation and all that. So we had to get a lot of things ready and Pop had to get rid of his little Ford truck that he was using gardening and things like that.

RP: And how did he do that? Did he sell the truck or did he give it to somebody?

MN: He, I think he sold it for dirt cheap, just get rid of it. 'Cause we couldn't, we couldn't keep it. Try to sell it you know. Because time is short and everything. In fact, they got so many days to get our things packed. Either store or sell it. Well, a lot of people try to store so they left it with a friend or something. But when they came back from camp it's all gone. Nothing was there. So the people that had it, they must have sold it or something. So actually when we came out of camp we didn't have nothing. Pop didn't have anything.

RP: Now, you mentioned things did change pretty drastically. There were, there was a curfew.

MN: Yeah, there was a curfew, yeah. We couldn't go out at nighttime.

RP: How about the travel? There was also a travel restriction that...

MN: I think they say five miles or something, a radius. That's all. So you know...

RP: Did that affect your father because he was a gardener. He traveled around.

MN: Yeah. Well, daytime it was okay.

RP: And how about, you mentioned that he had some guns when he was, when he was on the farm, the strawberry farm?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Did he still have those when the war broke out? Did he have to turn those in?

MN: No. I think somehow he got rid of it. I don't remember. After we came into L.A, or when I came back from Japan, he didn't have that. In the meantime I don't know what happened. He must have got rid of it or something.

RP: So how were you treated at school after Pearl Harbor?

MN: I guess I didn't notice. I was treated okay. But they stayed away from us for one thing. Because we were Japanese see. Yeah. So, they didn't try to hurt us or anything. They just stayed away from us. So we naturally we just get together ourselves too. So that was it until evacuation time came.

RP: And so did you have a part in packing up things and getting rid of things? What did you do? Or did you have...

MN: We had to sort out what we gonna take with us or can't, gonna store. They said no, we don't have no place to store it. So we just have to get rid of it. Either junk it or just leave it there until these junk, junk man, people used to come with the horses and all that. Yeah, they used to collect all those. Yeah, so we, we left all those stuff. Only thing we packed was what we were gonna carry with us into camp. What we could carry and that's it.

RP: Uh-huh, yeah. Other than the necessities and essential things, did you take anything else special to you?

MN: No. Actually they told us for one thing we're going out to area, open area. There's a lot of rattlesnakes so they told us to get a high top boots. Not ankle shoes. High top boots. So, we go out and buy high top boots. So when we got to Manzanar, sure enough.

RP: Did you see snakes there?

MN: Oh, yeah. A lot of rattlesnakes. That's why I they mentioned it. You need high top boots because you were going out in the desert or something.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Mas Nakajo. And, Mas, we were just talking about, a little bit about the preparations that the family made to go to Manzanar. Storing or selling items and... you had, your half-brother, Jimmy, actually volunteered to go to Manzanar?

MN: Yeah. Yes.

RP: Tell us about that.

MN: I think he, they asked for volunteers to help the carpenters that was building in Manzanar, the barracks, and seemed like they were running behind schedule. So they asked for volunteers from head of the household. And they guaranteed that the family, rest of the family would follow without being separated, see. That's why we had a lot of people with that situation where different area. A lot of different people from different area was in Manzanar. Not just a few... like Tule Lake they had mostly Sacramento people and Manzanar they have people from all over.

RP: And can you share with us a little bit of Jimmy's background? He was apparently a...

MN: Yeah, he, I think he went to a mechanical, mechanic's school, automotive mechanic's school in L.A. And after that he got a job with the Asahi Garage in Little Tokyo. He was a Chrysler, Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. So he was a mechanic there until the war broke out.

RP: One of the advantages of volunteering to go to Manzanar was you could drive your own vehicle or vehicles up.

MN: Yeah, he had a Ford Coupe. Like in 1930, '32, a Ford Coupe. It had a bucket... not a bucket seat, what they call...

Off Camera: Rumble. A Rumble...

MN: Right. Yeah. It had that in the back. So a lot of time we used to ride with him. But that's what he took to Manzanar. And after I think when he got to Manzanar there was all the people that drove up. There was an area where you could put your vehicle that came up with. So I guess after that everybody came to Manzanar and they must have either junked it or sold it or what. I don't know.

RP: He never drove it again.

MN: No.

RP: Did he ever tell you, talk to you about the convoy of cars that went up there?

MN: No, no.

RP: Yeah. It was quite a caravan.

MN: Yeah, I heard. I heard about it.

RP: So, another thing that you had to do before you left to go to Manzanar was get shots.

MN: Yes, we had, we had to get shot. I think two or three shots. Tetanus shot and all that stuff, yeah.

RP: Do you remember where you had to go to get those shots?

MN: We had to go to downtown L.A. In fact, I think where we boarded the train was Santa Fe Station. And they had facilities over there to get our shot too.

RP: So you got the shots just before you went on the train.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Do you remember wearing the little tags that had your family number on the suitcases and on your person?

MN: Vaguely. I don't remember that. But, I guess a lot of people had tags. I must have had tags on. I don't know.

RP: They required you to have 'em but...

MN: Yeah.

RP: And so you took the train up to Manzanar?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Do you remember the day that you, that you went to the train station?

MN: Well, according to the date that we entered Manzanar, it was March the twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth or something like that. So we must have got on the board, train that, about that, either twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth. Because it took us a whole day to get up there from Santa Fe Station.

RP: Now how did you get to the station, to the train station?

MN: I think we took a bus or a bus or train, not a train but streetcar down there. That's all I remember. Because we didn't have any bus service or anything to pick us up and take us.

RP: Do you recall how, any feelings or emotions that you had before you got on the train?

MN: No. I guess we were, we didn't think about those things. You know, all the people that are lined up to go on the train. And we saw the MPs standing by and that's all I recall. That's all I remember.

RP: For a number of Nisei kids, to them it was a big adventure.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Going on a train.

MN: Right, right.

RP: Going somewhere strange place.

MN: Right, right. Yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: And so where did you... what block were you assigned to when you got to Manzanar?

MN: Oh, we got assigned to Block 4.

RP: So you were one of the really early groups.

MN: Early... Block 3 was occupied by Bainbridge, Washington, people. And they took the whole Block 3. So we were the second group to occupy Block 4. Then you had your Block 1, Block 2, those are administrating building, police and fire and all that. So, Block 3 was occupied with regular evacuees and we were second, Block 4.

RP: And so you lived in Block 4 and barrack... do you remember the barrack?

MN: Oh, barrack, Block 4, Barrack 4, Apartment 4.

RP: 4-4-4?

MN: Yeah, right.

RP: That's easy to remember.

MN: Yeah..

RP: Oh wow. And your block was quite a melting pot of different groups.

MN: Yes, yeah.

RP: Tell us, tell us about it.

MN: We had people from Montebello, we had people from San Fernando Valley, and we had people from Gardena way and let's see, we had oh, we had people from Peru, families from Peru.

RP: One family from Peru?

MN: Yes.

RP: Japanese family?

MN: Yeah. Japanese family. I think he was a minister or something. And, anything connected with Japanese thing, culture, religion or things like that, they get picked up and evacuated or they get sent to Crystal Springs, places like that.

RP: Oh right, Crystal City. And you also had folks from Hawaii?

MN: Yeah, Hawaii, yeah. A family from Hawaii.

RP: Oh, wow.

MN: Then, let's see. Well, we had people from Fresno too, Fresno area.

RP: In your block?

MN: Yeah. A lot, lot of different areas. In like L.A., southern Cal like Glendale, Burbank, North Hollywood, all those areas.

RP: So did you have any people that, other boys or friends that, that you had in, in Los Angeles, were they in the camp there with you, in your block, close friends, acquaintances?

MN: No, no.

RP: So you had to start from scratch in making friends.

MN: Right. But we had younger group like Murakamis, George and Roy. And we had Kazumi Ando from Montebello. And, several people, some boys from different area, I don't remember, but anyway we had about ten, ten young guys.

RP: That was your group?

MN: Yeah.

RP: You palled around with?

MN: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.

RP: And some, some of you guys gave each other nicknames.

MN: Oh, yeah. We used to call one guy Bozo. Then, what did I say before?

RP: There was another guy that was real tall. You said he had big feet or something?

MN: Oh, yeah. We used to call him Feets. Yeah, Feets. His last name was Honjo. But his real name was Tadashi. But we, we all picked... easier, easier to pronounce, get names so we could call 'em. So he had big feet so we used to call him Feets. Things like that. You just pick it and put a name on it.

RP: Yeah. So what did you do with your close-knit friends in Manzanar?

MN: Oh, from day to day?

RP: Yeah. Block 4, Block 4 boys.

MN: Well like, you know, talk about it, we used to be a real mischievous kids. I mean, we always looked for adventure. So we, I lived in Block 4. Apartment is facing the main road going off from the main gate, straight up. And across from our place you got warehouses. They had different warehouse for maintenance and they had warehouses for perishables, thing like that. So, one with the perishables, warehouse, you got a vent, stacked vent, ventilate. So a lot of time we used to go climb the roof and go through the vent down and they had like potatoes, sack of potatoes and things, perishables. We used to haul 'em around. Well anyway, each of us, some guy, kid go get the lard from the kitchen, mess hall. And little frying pan, and we have French fries. Sliced it up and we used to have French fries. Then...

Off Camera: Where did you cook those?

MN: Right in the... you have recreation. Behind the block leader is, had number one apartment. Okay, so number two and number three combined, we had a little recreation. They give us a recreation room. So we used to get like boxing gloves from Sears and stuff and we used to practice. We'd hang a punching bag and all that. So, we had, we didn't have a regular electric stove or anything. We'd fire up the regular stove, heat it up real high. Yeah, fry French fry from that. Then we used to go nighttime you had a FFA, Farm, Future Farmers of America. See, they used to raise rabbits, chickens, and all that. So nighttime and chickens are cooped, cooped on the fence. We used to go snatch them and we used to have fried chicken, cut it up. We used to have a ball. We saw, we saw, we send... if we were too big, we sent the little kids up the... they could crawl through all that.

RP: Through the vent.

MN: Yeah. So we had, we had a lot of, we used to do a lot of things.

RP: So, there were other groups in camp, other boys. One group in particular from Terminal Island, the Yogores?

MN: Yeah, Yogores, yeah.

RP: So, how did you get along with them or did you?

MN: Well, yeah, but they, when they get together, they talked among themselves and they don't talk Japanese. They talk, I mean, they don't talk English. It's all Japanese but it's a real rough Japanese. But you could understand what they're saying. But anything, I mean conversation-wise, they don't... when they talk to you they ask you in, talk to you in English. But among them, they're all the Wakayama-ken, you know, dialect kind talk. Real, real rough fishermen's language. But I got along. I didn't have any problems or nothing.

RP: So, do you think they... they got a reputation for being really rough.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And, you know, getting in fights and things like that. Did you see any of that or...

MN: Yeah it's, well, in fact my, well like Murakamis in the Block 3, they had, they had little bit but nothing serious. But I know, I heard a lot of people got beat up. They gang 'em, gang type thing and get, beat 'em up.

RP: Did your group get in fights?

MN: No, we never had any fights.

RP: You were too busy stealing food. [Laughs]

MN: [Laughs] Yeah.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Yeah, did you guys sneak any sugar?

MN: No. See, that's one of the item that was real rationed and there's a lot of, I guess, black market that was in Manzanar. And that's where the riots started.

RP: It was about, yeah, it was about the sugar shortages.

MN: Right, and this guy, I guess the Caucasian guy that was in charge of the thing, he was selling sugar on the black market, things like that. But see, the Japanese guy that was in charge, he got scapegoat, he got, he got thrown in jail.

RP: Yeah, Harry Ueno.

MN: Yeah, right. Yeah, there was an article about him. Yeah, about how he got landed in jail and all that.

RP: So you heard about these sugar shortages in, in camp?

MN: I don't know. I didn't, I didn't hear about that. Well, all I know is there was a black market goin' on and that he got thrown in jail and then they tried to get him out.

RP: And you had a very, very powerful story about being down --

MN: Yeah.

RP: -- where the incident or riot occurred. Can you share with us, the events of that night?

MN: That night?

RP: Yeah.

MN: Yeah we heard that there was gonna be a gathering at the police station where this person was in jail. So we say well, let's see what's gonna happen or what's gonna, is he gonna be released or what. So anyway, we went down, about four of us I think, went down and everybody was already gathered in front of the police station there. And they were waiting, waiting. Well anyway, it was January I think. It was cold. And so we decided to... well, we saw the MP with a machine gun placement. And so we said, let's go have a cup of coffee in Mess Hall Two, Mess Hall Three there. So we went to the mess hall and one of the guys know the cook there, night cook, so we got in and was having a coffee and we ain't hear no noise or anything. But all of a sudden we just heard the banging on the door and this person came in. He says, "I got shot. I got shot." And I looked at it, we looked at it and he's bleeding but the bullet just went through his leg and came out. It didn't hit his bone or anything, flesh wound. So, we rushed out there and see what's going... and at time I, at that time already the tear gas was already gone. Then all of a sudden I heard, we heard the noise of the machine gun going. So what we understand, once they threw the tear gas, everybody scattered. And while they were scattering they opened up with the machine gun and that's when I think two people got shot and died right at the scene. And one of the fellow, he was seventeen years old, lived in our block, next barrack over, James Ito. And he got shot. Talk about... he's a seventeen year old, still in high school. But he was a quiet studious, always had a book to read. And I guess curiosity got his cat. He went out that night and then he got shot. Well anyway, two people passed, got shot. And about six, five or six people got wounded. So that was it.

RP: So where did you go after you saw this person come into the barrack who had been shot?

MN: Well, I guess they, some of the people there, they had transportation or something so they took him to the hospital. But after that it was so cold that we left.

RP: You went back to your block?

MN: Yeah, went to our block, yeah.

RP: So when you were down there milling around with the crowd, what was going on? There was...

MN: Oh yeah, I guess the tension was really building. And why, what I understand later that there was some pebble or rock was thrown from the crowd. And more or less they say these agitators. Could be Kibeis, agitator, but they agitated, start throwing rocks and things so MPs, they got kind of paranoid. And that's when I guess things erupted.

Off Camera: When you were down there, were people shouting?

MN: Oh you mean...

Off Camera: When, when you were there.

MN: Over there.

Off Camera; Yeah, when you were down there with those folks, were there people shouting and things like that?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

Off Camera: Do you remember what they were saying?

MN: No. I guess what they were saying, I don't know if Japanese... hollering, "Let him out," or something. I don't... yeah. But...

RP: Did you hear Japanese songs being sung or anything else?

MN: No, no, no. That stuff, they went to Tule Lake.

RP: Yeah.

MN: Yeah.

RP: So what, before the riot or the incident occurred, do you recall the tensions in the camp building? That there were strong divisions between sort of the anti-administration sort of Kibei group...

MN: No, no.

RP: How about the Japanese Americans Citizens League?

MN: Oh yeah, JACL group? Yeah, there was dissention there. The people that was a few leaders with that JACL, they got beat up. Yeah, beat up with, from the people that was anti, and they blamed them, the JACL, for being put in the camp. Things like that. Yeah, that, that, the movie that was out, Come and See My Paradise or something, it shows the area where the JACL people met and later on they'd leave the meeting and they'd get beat up.

RP: They were looked upon as inu?

MN: Yeah, inu, yeah, that's right. Yeah.

RP: Yeah, collaborators.

MN: Yeah, right, yeah.

RP: So your, could you, so you, you had a sense of the anger and hatred towards the JACL in the camp?

MN: That, I was too young, so I didn't notice it, but I heard that any person that was affiliated JACL, they get hunted and get beat up. That's all I know.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: So, what was the camp like after the riot? In the days, the day after...

MN: Oh, okay. I guess every, everything kind of settled down. Then we heard that there's a group, kids' family, that Matsumoto family in our block is big family. And from Roy -- he's one of the kids that was same age -- he says, "Well, I think we're going to another camp." And that's, we found out that that's where they got segregated. That they're going to another camp. And found out that they're going to Tule Lake. So, then after the, my sister, half-sister was in Tule Lake too at that time because she had to follow the, her husband that was alien. So he wound up going to Tule Lake and going back to Japan, see. So after they got there, some of the Tule Lake people that was there originally, they went to another camp to make room for these segregation people.

RP: And part of this segregation, the reason why they segregated people was based on their answers to the "loyalty questions."

MN: Right.

RP: Right.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And so can you share with us what you recall about that?

MN: Actually, I don't remember too much about it. All I know is the questionnaire, if you answered "no-no," you go, you get segregated, okay. You could be sent to like Tule Lake. But you could say, "yes-no."

RP: Did your dad have any thoughts about going back to Japan?

MN: No. He never had no desire to go back so we, we left it at "yes and no."

RP: Yes and no?

MN: Yeah, "yes-no." "No-no," you get segregated.

RP: Right.

MN: So, it was a question. "Yes-no"... is it "yes-no"? I don't know.

RP: No was the, or the second question was the "loyalty question," do you forswear allegiance to the emperor of Japan and...

MN: Oh, that's...

RP: And allegiance to the United States?

MN: Yeah, that's no I think.

RP: Uh-huh. And that question got changed because many Issei didn't feel comfortable giving up their connection with the only country they had.

MN: Yeah.

RP: So, uh-huh. And you said that your dad was kind of an outcast from his family because he came to America?

MN: Yeah, he was the only one that came, left their family and came to America. So he wasn't the youngest and he wasn't... he was in the middle of all the brothers. So he didn't want to go back. And that's why they, he was an outcast. And he knew that my mother wanted to take us to his ancestors in Kagoshima but they wouldn't accept us. Because our father's an outcast and his kids, see. Actually, being nephew you know. Yeah, but no, they had nothing to do with us.

RP: Getting back to your half-sister, you said that she had married this --

MN: Yeah.

RP: -- Japanese national.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And when did she get married? Before camp?

MN: They got married in Manzanar.

RP: Oh, they did get married in Manzanar.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And do you know her husband's name? Do you remember who he...

MN: All I know is his last name is Imamura. But I don't know what his first name.

RP: So he wanted to go back to Japan and so...

MN: Yeah, yeah, 'cause he didn't have no papers.

RP: So they, so your sister, half-sister goes with him to Tule Lake.

MN: Yeah, Tule Lake, but see, she was already pregnant. So they went to Tule Lake. Then the baby she had was a boy and he was born in Tule Lake. So he'd be my half-nephew.

RP: And did they go to Japan or did they...

MN: No. Well, see this is where things... we didn't want to, our sister to, her to go back to Japan with a baby, just born baby, with them. Because at that time Japan was gettin' real bombed and people are starving. And we didn't want... if she was by herself with the husband, fine. But with a baby, that's why we talked her out of it. So I think they annulled it, the...

RP: Marriage?

MN: The marriage, yeah. And he got deported to Japan. But through lawyer we had her stay.

RP: Oh, you had to hire a lawyer to...

MN: Yeah well we had this Japanese lawyer, Aiso.

RP: Aiso?

MN: Yeah, John Aiso.

RP: John Aiso.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Judge John Aiso.

MN: Right. I think they hired him.

RP: And you hired him to allow her to stay in the country?

MN: Yeah, I think so. I think my brother did that. My brother looked into it. Then the family, father, mother, they looked into it.

RP: Wow.

Off Camera: Was she able to come back to Manzanar then? After her husband went to Japan?

MN: No, she was still in Tule Lake.

RP: She stayed in Tule Lake and.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Wow, that's a pretty powerful story.

MN: So, let's see, this nephew, their only son, and he carried the father's name, is Gary Imamura. But the half-sister, she got remarried after the camp had closed and everybody got out of the camp. And while in Van Nuys, my father went sharecropping with a Chinese farmer. Had asparagus farm.

RP: Right.

MN: And that's when my half-sister was with the family and helping out. And she met this worker, farm-worker that worked for my father, harvest the asparagus. She got married to him. So they lived in El Monte for a while.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Go back to Manzanar, your, you did a lot of interesting things at Manzanar as far as work goes.

MN: Oh yeah.

RP: You had a lot of jobs.

MN: Yeah, first job I came across was camouflage worker, making camouflage. And that was seasonal. It wasn't permanent stuff. So after that got a job as a, what they call oil delivery to each apartment. Coal oil for heating, so we used to have, those days, a gallon, glass gallon jugs. Used to carry all those stuff and go to apartment to apartment and first we checked how much approximately they need. So we write it down. So we go back and haul that coal oil and fill up their stove. And we did that for, I did that for a pretty long time.

RP: And that was, you did that, did you do that after school or what?

MN: Yeah, after school. And during the morning hours they needed us to meet the truck driver, that tanker, that brought, bring in the coal oil from California, southern California, to fill up these big tank for oil for the mess hall, the boiler room for the showers, the latrine, all of that. So he'll come in between about two or three in the morning at the main gate. So we had to be out there to meet him and guide him, which block needs oil so he could fill up the big tank.

RP: Tank. And the tank was out past the ironing room at the top of the block.

MN: Right, yeah, that was the main tank.

RP: Right.

MN: And from there it's all separated to...

RP: So you had to wake up at a pretty ungodly hour to go meet the tanker.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Then come back and go to sleep and then you wake up and go to school.

MN: Yeah, yeah. Well, they gave us a schedule of when they're coming in and approximate time they would be hittin' the main gate, see. So we had to be out there so when he comes in we have to guide him which, which block to go. Not, not Block 4 but some other block, see.

RP: Yeah, right, right.

MN: Yeah, either Block 4, 10, 6, all that.

RP: And you would fill the stoves up, there was another, another person that worked with you?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Who was that, do you know?

MN: He was Kaz, they call it Kaz Ando.

RP: Kaz Ando?

MN: Yeah.

RP: And so you do half of the block and he would do the other half?

MN: Yeah well he would, yeah, we used to shifts. We'd tell him what block, what building to cover and all that.

RP: So what was the capacity of those stoves? How much oil did they hold?

MN: Oh, let's see... maybe, I don't think it was five-gallon. I don't think it was five-gallon. Maybe three or four gallon, but.

RP: And during the, when it was really cold out, you know, the winter months, did you have to fill those stoves up every, every day?

MN: Maybe every other day. But, yeah, it depends on the weather. If it's severe cold and people will let us know if their oil is short or that needs refilling, they'll let us know. They run out or something. But, other than that, we just normally go all, all the apartments and see if it need it. If it don't need it we don't fill it.

Off Camera: And you got your oil to fill up out of the big tank too?

MN: Yeah. For the, from the big tank there's a spigot you use to take the oil out.

RP: And when it was really cold out would most families just burn their heaters all night long?

MN: Yeah, just about.

RP: You'd have to.

MN: Yeah. Because those tarpaper, I mean, it's real, real primitive, tarpaper and all that. And it gets cold and you get cold from underneath too. Because it's not on a solid...

RP: Slab.

MN: ...sealed ground. It's open.

RP: You have all that air move, coming in.

MN: Right. It comes right up. In fact, a lot of times you'd be better off sleeping with a bunch of stuff on the bottom than on a cot. Because unless you have a big thick mattress on the cot, okay. But just thin mattress, that cold air just comes right through you. And that's when a lot of the... you didn't get no issue of long-johns but I think a lot of, lot of people used to order through Sears.

RP: Did you remember getting peacoats at Manzanar?

MN: We used to call it horse blankets. Horse blanket coat, yeah.

RP: Oh.

MN: Yeah, real thick, bulky and but when it gets wet it just weighs like a ton. Yeah, we got issued that, yeah.

RP: So one of the things that the WRA tried to do was to weatherize the barracks a little bit. They put the insulation in, plasterboard and then the linoleum on the floor. Do you remember those?

MN: No, I don't.

RP: No.

MN: No. I don't recall any plasterboards.

RP: Yeah.

MN: No.

RP: Insulation, wall, on the walls.

MN: No.

RP: Oh, okay.

MN: You mean after the, after the people moved in?

RP: Yeah.

MN: Oh...

RP: That was probably summer or fall of 1942.

MN: No.

RP: The Terminal Island crews were going around and putting out, down linoleum and...

MN: Oh yeah?

RP: Maybe they didn't get to your block.

MN: I guess not. Maybe we didn't have pull. It's who you know I guess.

RP: It was. Yeah, it really was. Huh. So, let's see, you, you mentioned that you know each block, Barrack 1, the first room was reserved for the block manager.

MN: Yeah, with Block 4, Building 1, Apartment 1, that was the block manager's office.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: And do you remember who your block manager was?

MN: Well, all I know is Seigo Murakami.

RP: Oh, Mr. Murakami was the block manager?

MN: Yeah, yeah. And I found out that he was from North Hollywood and judo sensei, rokudan, that's sixth degree. Then found out that joined the judo club he had an assistant, Tashima. He was a mean sucker.

RP: What would he do?

MN: Huh? Well he doesn't try to mingle with the student much. He didn't want that. He wanted to keep it apart. So anytime when you practicing and he sees you goofing off, that's, he'll separate you and he'll get another sensei to take care of one and he will take care of another. And before you get to even grab him he'll use ashibara like that. You go ooooh. He didn't give you... then he'll throw you about three or four times. Then he will let you hang onto him and practice. But he was a mean sucker. He let us know that...

RP: Who, who's boss.

MN: Yeah. Yeah.

RP: So he'd throw you a few times and...

MN: Yeah, oh yeah.

RP: You'd get the message. Wow. So had you taken... you never had taken judo before until you came to Manzanar?

MN: Right. Yeah. Because my father used to take judo in Japan, see. So he wanted us to take judo. On top of that the main honcho, Murakami, was right...

RP: Right there.

MN: ...right next door to our apartment.

RP: He wanted to get all the kids into judo.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: So did judo, taking judo have any benefit to you?

MN: Well, yeah, more or less, discipline and you respect the elder. So he teach you and you don't try to pick a fight. You, you respect other people and things.

RP: If somebody messes with you, you know what to do with them.

MN: Yeah.

RP: Now, when did you start taking judo? Was it when the dojo was built?

MN: Yeah, when the dojo was built, yeah.

RP: Do you remember seeing that building being built?

MN: Yes, yes. My father used to take us around and showin' us this gonna be the judo and all that.

RP: It was an interesting structure because it had no central beams, like center beams, at all.

MN: Yeah, right. Yeah. But, even, it was a pretty good dojo for in Manzanar like that. Amazing, come to think of it now after... and we had, when Murakami left North Hollywood dojo, some police chief took over his... so they made arrangements for, from that new dojo the police chief would bring student to Manzanar to compete with us. And this, not only it was boys, but it was girls in there, you see. And we'd get matched up with the girls.

RP: You actually practiced with the girls?

MN: Yeah. But you have that funny feeling, where you gonna grab?

RP: Where you gonna grab 'em? [Laughs]

MN: [Laughs] Yeah, we had that problem.

RP: Wow. That was actually, yeah, Jack Sergil, do you remember that name?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: He's the guy that took over the dojo.

MN: Took over, okay. He's the chief of police.

RP: Yeah, and he brought up his students and after the word got back to the Herald Examiner or somebody that, that women had been practicing with Japanese men and there was a big, big...

MN: Yeah, oh yeah. A write-up on that?

RP: ...big scandal. Yeah.

MN: Is that right?

RP: A big write-up about it.

MN: Well, we never heard about that.

RP: I'll have to tell, I'll have to show you some of the stories that were printed. It was a terrible scandal.

MN: Oh.

RP: And Jack had to leave the police force.

MN: Is that right?

RP: And then but he started a new career as a movie star.

MN: Is that right.

RP: Teaching judo to James Cagney.

MN: Oh.

RP: Yeah.

Off Camera: So, how were those girls at judo? Were they good? The girls that you...

MN: Yeah. They're, yeah. They're not as aggressive but they're okay. But, thing is, you don't, you don't want to go down in a wrestling with them. You have that funny feeling so you try to just do standing, not grapple.

RP: Treat 'em gently?

MN: Yeah. You, you kind of hold back. You can't go real hard.

RP: It's an interesting situation to be in.

MN: Yeah, right. Oh, I didn't know they had a scandal on that thing, after we got back.

RP: Was it just one occasion where the, where the women were there? The girls came up?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And how far did you go along? I mean, what rank did you obtain in judo?

MN: Oh, okay. You start from beginning, white belt. Then you work, work your way up to green belt. From green to purple belt. Then from purple you could work up to brown belt, first, second, something like that. Then you reach the top of brown belt, then from there you go into black belt. It called a shodan, first degree shodan.

RP: So you got to brown belt.

MN: Yeah, up to brown belt.

RP: Now after you left Manzanar did you continue judo at all?

MN: No, no.

RP: So it was just a camp experience.

MN: Yeah camp, yeah.

RP: And they had exhibitions and where people came and watched you compete?

MN: Just camp people.

RP: Camp people.

MN: Yeah, that's all. Yeah, because mostly tournament was elimination. You start with your own degree people. Then you keep on goin' until you, you get defeated. Until then you keep on going. So, that kind of tournament.

RP: You, you told us about sensei Tashima was some bad-ass guy. What, what was Murakami like? Was he as tough and...

MN: Oh, Seigo?

RP: Seigo.

MN: Seigo Murakami. No, he was, everybody looked up to him. He's sensei. And he had two sons. Yeah, so everybody respected him, and just like father.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Mas, let's talk a little bit about some of your fishing experiences at Manzanar.

MN: Oh, yeah.

RP: When did you start fishing?

MN: That was in nineteen-forty... I think it was '43, 1943 or early part of '44. Yeah, we started to sneak out of camp. We were on the south end of the camp. People on the north end, they were going down to Shepherd's Creek and stuff and we were goin' out of south, guard post underneath the Bair's Creek and from there we used to sneak out and go toward George's Creek.

RP: Fish George's Creek?

MN: Yeah, fish George's Creek.

RP: So you'd normally go out at night.

MN: Yeah, get out at night.

RP: So what time would you leave camp, usually?

MN: Yeah, not too late, not too early. But if you go too early out there you, you stay out there all night. It's pretty, gets hairy and cold. You kind of time it.

RP: So would you go out after midnight?

MN: Yeah, after, it's always after midnight.

RP: Early hours of the morning.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And then you'd try to come back in while it was still dark?

MN: Yeah. Yeah. After still dark.

RP: Uh-huh.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And there was one occasion where you actually went out during the day.

MN: Oh yeah. That's when we got caught.

RP: Tell us about that.

MN: Yeah, well, I think it was fishing in George's Creek and near there's a MP road, jeep road, that guards the perimeter. They make rounds, see. So we were ready to come home, come back to camp and we were fishing there. Evidently they spotted us fishing. So that's, that's when we got caught. And, they asked if we had permit to be out here. And I said no. So he says, "All right. Let's go back in camp." So they put all in front of the jeep and there was MP walking behind us, one MP, with a bayonet. And marched us all the way into camp. I think we went to Block 12 and we went straight down Block 12 to the main gate there. And all the time we were marching down and this jeep with the MPs and bayonet and everything stickin' behind us and people coming out, what the hell's goin' on? And everybody just... we were just embarrassed. So we got thrown in jail and I think I was real young yet so notified the block leader, which was Seigo Murakami. Yeah, so he came down and he kind of gave us a little lecture for going out like that. So anyway, we got bailed out, more or less. But, we... I figured this way, what the hell, we're in camp. We're not going any place. And we go fishing trip and we get caught. They can't do too much to us. But all the charges they had, out of bound, fishing out of season and this and that. About five charges. Yeah. So, well anyway, Seigo, he bailed us out. There's two of us from Block 4.

RP: How many of you were total?

MN: Well we, there were about four or five of us. So there was people from Block 5 that used to come to Block 4 all the time. So actually, there was about five of us went out.

RP: And you were all bailed out?

MN: Yeah.

RP: No, no fines, no jail time.

MN: No fines. No.

RP: And did you go out again after that?

MN: Tried to, yeah.

RP: What happened? You tried to and...

MN: Well, after, after that incident you kind of hold back. You don't want to get caught again, see, so I think we more or less gave it up.

RP: So the beginning of that story was, that you shared with me, was that a friend of yours was an ambulance driver.

MN: Oh, yeah. See, he took us out that day, that night. He took us out and he, he left us out there and that's the time that when we tried to come back during the day we got caught, see. Yeah. He had this, Kiyoshi, guy named Kiyoshi. He used to drive ambulance. So anywhere we had to go from our block to go north block, well, he used to pick us up and take us there. Because ambulance, I mean, hospital was on the north end. So he always, anything that we had to go north he used to come and pick us up. Because he used to come and when he wasn't on duty, ambulance driving duty, he used to come to our block and mingle with us.

RP: Oh, a good guy to know.

MN: Yeah. And we had a lot of old guys that, guys coming from Block 5. In fact we had one guy from Block 15 or something like that. Thee used to come to our block because we used to play a lot of pinochle and we had ping pong, so play ping pong. And used to try to get these young kids nice stuff for boxing, things like that. So there's a lot of outside, older guys used to come in. And we'd split up to play basketball. We had a little court.

RP: Was that in, in front of the latrines?

MN: Yeah right, right. Yeah.

RP: Oh, wow.

MN: Homemade, homemade basketball court.

RP: So Seigo, was he kind of like a, you said he was kind of like a father figure to you.

MN: Right, right. Yeah, yeah.

RP: Wow. And...

Off Camera: Did you get in trouble by your parents for going out too?

MN: No.

Off Camera: Did they find out?

MN; No, no... they, afterwards they knew, knew about it because Seigo and my father they communicate and talk. So, he found out about it that way.

RP: So when you did go out and fish, did you catch fish?

MN: Yeah, we caught fish. But the fish we caught was confiscated. We couldn't bring it in. They took that away from us.

RP: And the MPs had a nice fish fry?

MN: Right, they had a fish dinner, trout.

RP: So, what was your, what was your approach to fishing? Did you, did you have any formal rod and reel?

MN: At that time?

RP: Yeah.

MN: No, use a, I think a, we had mail order telescopic fishing pole we got from Sears. Because we found out that Georgia Creek is nothing but brush, no open area where you could fish. You had to go through your tree branches and brush and try to get to the creek. You get, there's no place you could take a regular rod. It'd get all hung up. So you take a telescopic and just... So, that's the way we fished over there.

RP: And what did you use for bait?

MN: Grub. Either earth grub or you take a rock, you open up a rock, there's usually a bug, or grasshopper. There was earthworm, grasshopper, that's the only thing we used to use. And regular rock grub that's in the creek.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Mas Nakajo. And Mas, go ahead.

MN: Okay. Gettin' back to the job I had, besides the delivering oil and all that. I had the job... I once learned how to drive. So I got a job as a truck driver. More like a job training and my job was to drive around the block's mess hall and pick up garbage cans, garbage, to be dumped in a garbage out of the camp. So you had to go out of main gate, Manzanar, and head north about a mile on 395 and there's an area you could turn in. It's at end of an airfield, small airplane airfield. You passed that and go about a mile in and there's an area where you could dump your garbage. And that's the job I had, collecting garbage and taking it out of the camp and dumping it.

RP: And did they have a pit for the garbage?

MN: Right, a pit, yeah, yeah.

RP: And you said that, that part of that operation involved recovering some of the perishable food.

MN: Yeah, okay. I think what they did was, I don't know, it had a crew or what, they segregated all the perishable food and they accumulate that and take it to hog farm south of the camp. They had a hog farm there. In fact one of the guys that, in our camp worked as at the hog farm. So they used to take all that stuff to the hog farm.

RP: So was that, was the perishables segregated at the mess hall or at the dump when you brought the...

MN: I think it was at the dump. Because I don't think it was the mess hall. Because everything went into the garbage.

RP: Okay.

MN: So it had to be segregated at the dump.

RP: The dump.

MN: I don't, I don't see them. I don't know any, I didn't know anything about it.

RP: So what kind of truck did you learn how to drive on?

MN: Okay, it was a ton and a half Chevrolet, open bed -- or open, it had a side gate -- stick shift truck. Well, all I know is you had, you had to, first you, you clutch it. But a lot of time it doesn't go right, so you double clutch it. That's where you learn how to double clutch it, see. And when you double clutch it you could reduce gears, all that speed. So it was a lot of fun. More or less like a job training. So, that's how I learned how to drive a car.

RP: To drive.

MN: So when we were told that we're gonna have to leave camp in 1945, they said we need, need a driver's license to drive any vehicle. So they says come to the police station and for fifty cents we give you, issue a driver's license. And that's how I got my first driver's license.

RP: Wow. Fifty cents.

MN: Yeah. Fifty cents.

RP: How much is it today? God. That's a...

Off Camera: So the truck you drove to take the garbage over, it was, did it have a dump bed on it?

RP: No, it was open, open bed with the side rack.

Off Camera: So how did you get all the stuff off the truck?

MN: [Motions a throwing motion with hands.] Just, more or less dump it. You back up the truck and you dump it.

Off Camera: So it was full of trash cans, garbage cans?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

Off Camera: Okay.

RP: And did you collect garbage from every block in the camp?

MN: Well, just about try to... as much as you can.

RP: And so how many men were on the crew with you?

MN: Just two of us.

RP: Just one driver and...

MN: Yeah, one helper. That's when Kaz Endo came in.

RP: Oh.

MN: And then I, we used to work together a lot of times.

RP: Did you...

MN: Yeah, delivering oil and garbage and all of that.

RP: Yeah, you were involved in the infrastructure of the camp a lot.

MN: Yeah. And we, together we got a job making camouflage nets and all that.

RP: Yeah, a little bit more about the camouflage net factory. Did you work in a crew or did you weave, did you weave nets?

MN: Yeah, yeah, knit, weave.

RP: You worked with another group of guys?

MN: Well...

RP: By yourself.

MN: By yourself. All they do is give you a net and they give you the material and they give you the pattern to follow and that was it. Then you have another person doing the same thing next to you.

RP: Oh, okay.

MN: So it wasn't like a group. You just individual. Net, net, you'd just stay there and as they, you start from low, they lower the net and they, then after that they keep on pulling it up.

RP: Oh, uh-huh. And do you remember how long it would take you to weave a net?

MN: [Laughs] I don't remember that.

RP: The, some of the kids who worked in the net factory talked about some of the burlap strips were coated with chemicals and they got rashes --

MN: Rashes.

RP: -- from some, some of the chemicals.

MN: Oh, all I know is that things smells a lot. I don't know about the rashes. We didn't get rash but it gets kind of intoxicating, the smell. I used to wear a white mask. Because that fuzz too, it gets in your nose and... yeah, that's all I remember. But the, that smell used to really, I guess it's chemically treated or something. It used to get to me with that, them burlap fuzz. It used to get into my nose.

RP: Fibers.

MN: Yeah, fibers, yeah.

RP: So, you worked there the first summer you were there?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And...

MN: And then from, well from there I went to oil and then from there driving truck and from... I think the last job I had was working in a hospital boiler room. We had three boilers going for hospital. And we fire up two boilers and have one empty because we had to clean it, maintain it. Soot and all that, we had to clean it out. Then we alternate that then get the other one that had to be maintained, cleaned. So we used to, three of us used to work on shift.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Now your half-brother, Jim, who volunteered to come to Manzanar and help --

MN: Yeah.

RP: -- build the camp.

MN: Yeah.

RP: What did he end up doing in camp?

MN: Okay, he, after the camp was built, he got a job as a night, night janitor at the Manzanar orphanage. And him another, his partner, go after the orphanage mess hall is through, then he go, they go in there and clean up the floors and buff it and mop and all that. But after doin' that they start recruiting people to work seasonal outside, go seasonal. So he, he got on the bandwagon with that. And he went to Idaho, beet, beet thinning and beet topping and things like that. Then he'll come back. Then season comes along, he'll go out again. So actually he stayed in camp about not even a year. He come and go. So finally he found a place in Pocatello, Idaho. And he decide to get a job there so this city had a bus line service and they need a mechanic. So he got a job as a mechanic. So he worked off bus line service for a long, well, when we, couple years, couple three years, until Phillips 66 he had a chance to get his, lease a oil, gas station under Phillips 66. Then he built a garage, a mechanical garage so he could fix cars. So he had a gas station and a garage. And this is where he wanted me to come and help him that one summer. And I was in Van Nuys, California, at the time, going to school and everything. So I went there and I think it was 1946, summer of '46. I was there working and in nineteen, latter of '46, or forty... no, latter, beginning of '47, a recruiting sergeant for the local draft board paid me a visit. So he, he says, "You Masahiro Nakajo?" I say, "Yes." Says, "Well... according to, we have a quota here that you're subject to a military draft peacetime." So he says, "Your name on the list." So I says, "Who else is going on that list?" He says, "Well, there's one other person that's been native in Idaho." I say, "How about the rest of the guys at our age?" Well, he says, "They're farmers. And they're farmer's son, and they're deferred." So, I says to him, you know, funny, when I went to Manzanar, I says, camp, I says, my local draft board was Bishop, California, north of the Manzanar. Now after I got out of the camp I had to, I was in San Fernando Valley so it was in their draft board. So when I went to Idaho, I had to report to the Pocatello, Bannock County draft board. And I said, I think any time when you move they catch up with you and they grab you. I said that's how I got grabbed.

RP: Grabbed. You talked about Jim leaving the, leaving Manzanar to go on these furloughs.

MN: Yeah.

RP: You went on a furlough too for a short time in the summer of 1943?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Where did you go?

MN: Well, before that my brother was always relocating.

RP: Where did he go?

MN: Pocatello, Idaho.

RP: That was your full brother?

MN: No, no. That was my half-brother.

RP: That was Jim, okay.

MN: So after he [inaudible] he came into camp and took mom and the three kids, my sister, me... with him to Pocatello, Idaho, to spend some time. I think two weeks or something like that. So we spent time with him. We went swimming, things like that. Then we came back. Then in 1944 there was a fellow living with us, same block. He was... well, first I got to know him. He was a kendo sensei. And then talkin' about establishing a kendo dojo. And that's how I got to know him. And he advised how, how to get the kendo gi and all that. So we got that and we had kendo, he taught us kendo and all that. Then in meantime he used to, he's lab technician at a hospital, at that time he was working. So he wanted to go outside and see the outside, see how it is. So he asked my mother, mother's permission if he could take me with him. So that's how I got... like he was a older brother. So we went from Manzanar. We didn't have no bedding so we had to take our own bedding. So we wrap up a mattress, roll it up and cover with the blanket. And oh, hobo, like a hobo. But anyway, we got on a Greyhound bus and went to Bishop. And from there we went into Utah, Idaho, Oregon. There's some seasonal, cannery work. We worked at one cannery in Utah. Place called Layton, Utah. And...

RP: Tomato cannery?

MN: Yeah, tomato cannery. And another place we went to cannery named Woodcross cannery. So those two places we worked. And from there we went to Nyssa, Oregon, and there was a labor camp there. So we had a job goin' out in the field. So after that was over we started back to camp.

RP: And his name was Herbert Higuchi?

MN: Yeah. Herbert Higuchi.

RP: That Japanese name was Hisachi?

MN: Hisachi, yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. And you mentioned that he wanted to go out and see what it was like outside.

MN: Yeah.

RP: What was it like outside?

MN: Well, all I know is we stopped in at, I don't know which, either Reno, something... anyway he wanted to get a, he said, "I want to get a haircut, shampoo, and a shave." So I had to wait for him to get all this. So when he came out I asked him, "How much is a haircut and all that?" He says, "Four dollars." I said, "Four dollars?" You know, four dollars at that time, man, it's just like this. [Raises hand into the air] So he says, "Well I got the whole works." Shampoo, all that. Four dollars. He got charged that. But he said boy, it was worth it.

RP: Were there other things that you did while you were outside that you couldn't do in camp?

MN: I didn't, well, I saw him doing gambling but all I could, I was a minor then, see. So I, all I could do is watch. But he liked to play dice. He didn't like the slow blackjack game, he liked the fast game. So his favorite was the dice.

RP: And he played that at the labor camp? Where, where did he...

MN: No. He played at the casino.

RP: Oh, at the casino, okay.

MN: Yeah. I think the oldest casino in Reno, Harrah's Club, that was the only one there at the time. So I think that's where he played.

RP: Were there any businesses or occasions where you were not welcome in a certain establishment or...

MN: No, no, we didn't have any problem, no. No, no signs saying that...

RP: "No Japs."

MN: Yeah. But, you still could feel it, the prejudice. You could feel it. So you try to kind of stay away. Other than that it was... no, anybody try to pick a fight or anything.

RP: Well you got a kendo instructor right there with you.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And you know judo.

MN: Yeah.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Mas, with all the jobs that you had at Manzanar and the judo and everything else, you still found time to go to school.

MN: In camp?

RP: Yeah. You went to school in camp.

MN: Yeah.

RP: You started high school?

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: And what, what grade did you start?

MN: I think it was... see, they eliminated junior high school. From grammar school they jumped into high school, see. So there was no, I don't know if it was ninth, ninth grade was considered high school. Anyway, for half year we didn't have school so I was behind one semester or something like that. So I went to school.

RP: And what kind of student were you like?

MN: Well, I'd call it normal but a little mischievous. Because we have... funny, we had teacher, we had an English, old English teacher and we didn't know this. We start saying anything and we say in Japanese. Bad things about her. And we found out that she understand every bit of it. And when I heard she was in Japan for so many years, and she learned all this Japanese. So everything we say in Japanese she hears it, she'll answer in Japanese right back at you. I said, my god, it just floored us. Then another teacher that, she was about twenty-two, twenty-three years old, doctor, found out she was from France. And she was teaching art, art and craft. And the classroom, they don't have no regular chair like this with desk. All they had was regular picnic table with a bench on each side. And our bench work was all that. So anything that she had to teach us. she'll get on one side and she'd bend over and all I, we noticed that she wore loose clothes. Real loose, not real tight. So everybody gets on the other side of the bench and elevate them and look right down her blouse. [Laughs] And that, that was a real kick. That's why everybody liked to take that class. She was a real young, young teacher but she was a lot of fun. Teaching us art and craft. Then we had another teacher, I think she taught history or something. We never saw her wear a blouse. It's always sweater. And she used to wear a real tight sweater. And I guess she liked to really show off. So everybody used to see her and go gaga over her. Then we had another teacher. She was, she was a science teacher or something. Anyway, another male teacher that was there, he was blind. Something Green, his name.

RP: Greenley.

MN: Yeah. He was blind. He was a teacher. And I think this lady teacher that he used to take him, guide him and everything. I think her name was Smith. So she used to teach science or something. And that's, we knew that she used to show him around from class to class.

RP: Did you, did you have a music teacher by the name of Louie Frizzell?

MN: Frizzell, right. Yeah. We weren't too old, not old enough to join any chorus. So, but he, I knew he was a teacher, music teacher. And, in fact, I saw a couple a movies. He made movies. I found out he was in New York and he... I saw two movies on him. Yeah, he was a great guy I think. Yeah. Everybody, all the older, older people that, student, they really liked him. Lou Frizzell.

RP: In talking about teachers, you told me that you thought the state of California had a hard time recruiting teachers for Manzanar?

MN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. At the time, that's why I think there was no school right away. It was, they had to recruit teachers. And there was a rumor goin' around I heard that teachers are informed that you don't want to teach in that place. It's a concentration or internment camp and nothing but Japanese. So a lot of 'em shied away. So the government had to go Midwest, southern states. So they could be recruited like husband and wife team. And one teach one and one teach other. We had a lot of those teachers.

RP: From different parts of the country.

MN: Right. But, funny thing, I had a southern teacher there. I couldn't understand the southern. I always had to ask for a second to explain it. Maybe the southern people could comprehend but us guys, we couldn't comprehend her. We have to ask for second time.

Off Camera: So it was worse than the Kagoshima accent?

MN: Oh yeah.

RP: I was gonna say, the Wakayama accent too.

MN: Yeah, Wakayama.

RP: The Terminal Island group.

MN: Yeah, Terminal Island group.

RP: You had some tough linguistic challenges there.

MN: Yeah, oh yeah.

RP: Wow. Were there occasions where, especially in history or civics class, where they tried to teach you about the government and democracy and those kind of things and some kids remember the irony of, of trying to teach about democracy in a camp like Manzanar. Was there, was there sarcasm? Was there on part of some of the kids?

MN: Yeah, well a lot of 'em they didn't, they didn't care about that.

RP: They lost their...

MN: Interest. Yeah. A lot of 'em like that. They care less because what was happening I guess. And they don't want to... that's the way I felt too a little bit.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: So, do you remember when you left camp?

MN: Yeah, that was in 1945. I think it was September. Right before the school started, semester after.

RP: Oh, okay.

MN: Yeah, 1945. And we relocated to Riverside, California. My father went out about two weeks before and got hold of the, contacted people for, he could take, resettle us. So he came across another internee I guess. I don't know what camp, but he had a land in Riverside, a farmland. And he needed somebody to more or less sharecrop. So my father was, asked him to sharecrop with him. So that's how he got, came back and got us out. But living quarters he didn't provide us. Across the street was Inaba Chicken Farm in Riverside, California. Okay. So he had a lot of chicken coop. And so when we came there we had to more or less improvise the chicken coop as a living quarter. We had to hang blankets and everything because chicken coop, one side's all open. So we had to close all that. So we stayed there about six months, not even that. And Father got another job with a Chinese asparagus farmer in Van Nuys, California. So he needed a sharecropper that my father take care of the asparagus farm, irrigation, fertilization, and harvesting and all that. But this Chinese farmer never, never lived in Van Nuys at the farm. He lived in L.A. So when the harvest time comes he tells my dad to get, round up the pickers for the asparagus.

RP: Did you work on that farm too?

MN: Yeah, we did. But not harvesting but after packing the asparagus it got three classes, choice, the top grade and... they pack 'em and we used to drive the asparagus down to the Seventh Street wholesale market in L.A. We'll leave about maybe one or, one or, twelve or one o'clock in the morning, and come back right before school starts.

RP: Wow. And you were going to Van Nuys high school at the time?

MN: Yeah.

RP: Huh. Uh, so your housing wasn't much better than the barracks that you left in Manzanar.

MN: Yeah, right. Yeah. But, after we got out of Riverside housing was a lot better because one side was a horse stall but other side was more like a room where you could have living quarters and you have kitchen, cooking facilities, and things. So I stayed there in 1940s, I think 1946, that's when my brother needed help in the...

RP: Pocatello.

MN: Yeah, so I decided to go that summer. So went to help summer but got stayed. He needed help more, help my, help him out with more so I enrolled in high school there and worked until the draft time came.

RP: Oh, that's right.

MN: Yeah. So, when the draft time came I decided to volunteer instead of get drafted because if you get drafted you put in two years active duty, then after you get discharged you have to put in five years of reserves see. And I didn't want that. And besides, I asked the recruiter, I says, he told me, "You, your job, it's a good job for the army." So I says, "Could I have this job after I get in the army?" He says, "Well, you have to take the aptitude test. And if you pass that then they'll send you to school and teach you the army way." Not the civilian way, the army way. Okay, I says, "Sign me up for three years then." So that's how I went in.

RP: And what was your job that you, that you wanted to have in the army?

MN: Oh, regular maintenance work, automotive maintenance.

RP: 'Cause that's what you'd been doing at Pocatello.

MN: Yeah. Fixing tires, things like that. Pumping gas. It's like a motor pool like a job. Check oil. All the things like that. So they, in the army they call it first station on maintenance.

RP: So what was the toughest part of resettling for you coming out of camp?

MN: Coming out of camp?

RP: Yeah.

MN: Well, it's always on the move. You're not settled in one place. And you don't know how it's gonna be that next place. You, you think about it. You worry about it and things like that.

RP: Uncertainty.

MN: Yeah, right.

RP: And how, how did you find the world when you came out of camp in terms of Caucasians? How did they relate to you as a Japanese American? Did you feel... what, what kind of attitudes did you kind of experience in the world when you came out?

MN: Well, I don't know. I... about same. I mean, I didn't have any... I know we were different, but that was it. But army, when you go into the army, there was some prejudice too. In fact, I got in a couple of brawls. Army, my own company.

RP: Really?

MN: Yeah.

RP: What happened?

MN: Well this guy was, he was a navy guy. And somehow, I don't know, he transferred to the army. And he was a kind of cocky guy. Well, he short, short-sheeted my bed one night. I went to an army movie and came back and tried to go to bed and try to crawl into your sheets and everything and short-sheeted, nothing there. Then I found out later who did it. So I questioned the guy and we got, we got in a fight. Yeah. But I think I got the better end of it. Even though he was a navy guy. He's a real cocky guy, pushy. So anyway, from basic we went to, I got transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington. From there I was permanently assigned to a division, ordinance where they take care of all the equipment, tanks, vehicles, all the vehicles. So I was a mechanic there.

RP: And then you were shipped overseas.

MN: Yeah.

RP: And served in Korea?

MN: Yeah. Before that, 1949 the second infantry division in, in Washington, they had a maneuver in Hawaii. And this supposed to consist of ninety-nine ship convoy. Just like a wartime situation. It took us, you down with it, zig-zag, and finally hit the Hawaiian islands for the maneuver. So before that, about two months before that, we had to camo, I mean, what they call get, get all these vehicles waterproofed. Yeah, all that work. And we worked our butt off that thing try to get all these done. And finally 1949 we loaded up on the ship in Puget Sound there, Tacoma, Washington. They loaded up. And we headed out. And it, [inaudible] the Hawaiian islands. And it's just like a maneuver. Get off. All the vehicle go out the and we didn't even touch water. Dry land all that work we did, waterproofing, we didn't use it.

RP: Oh, wow.

MN: Yeah. So we spent one week, aloha weekend in Hawaii. Then we finally came back. Then in 1950, well I got tired of the state of Washington. There was a lot of rain and I want to go overseas so I requested for overseas. I thought hoping that the, not the Far East, but the European theater. But no, they gave me Far East. Then right after I got my orders they give me thirty-day leave to go home and visit, have vacation, then report to my regular place for load the ship for Far East. So, which I did. In the meantime waiting, having my furlough, that's when the Korean War broke out. Yeah, so from there I had to report to Pittsburg, California. That's where the Repo Depot was for Far East command. So when we got there we were issued all these rifles and helmets and all that. And rifles we had to [inaudible], all that stuff. So I spent ten days there and it was in July. Oh, talk about hot. Hundred and ten, hundred and fifteen degrees at the time. Yeah, so we finally got our orders to get, get on a ship at Fort Mason, California, near San Francisco there. It was a troop ship. So I think there was about pretty close to two thousand of us on that ship. It was the first ship replacement from stateside for the Korean war.

RP: Were there other Japanese Americans with you in that unit?

MN: Not at that, not at that time. But after, well after I got there, in Korea then I met a Hawaiian guy, in the same outfit. But in States, before this goin' over, you have another fellow from Seattle, a Japanese guy. But we got separated because I got my individual orders to go to Far East and I think he stayed with the Second Infantry Division and they left for Korea, too, see. So after I got to Korea I kind of met up with the division. But try to locate an individual, it was pretty hard.

RP: Okay.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: We're gonna... just a few more questions, Mas.

MN: Okay.

RP: We're gonna wrap things up, but you, when you got back to the States and I think you were living in the Boyle Heights area or East Los Angeles area...

MN: Yeah.

RP: There was some kind of a incident with the American Legion Unit that you, you belonged to the American Legion.

MN: Oh, yeah.

RP: And something came up about was it Japanese Americans or they opposed something.

MN: Oh, okay.

RP: Can you share that?

MN: Yes. In 1958 we decided to form a American Legion post. Okay. And we wanted to ask Sadao Munemori -- that had the Congressional Medal of Honor -- ask the family if we could use their name for the post. So we were given permission to do so. So we formed a fifteen man charter member, what they call American Legion Sadao Munemori Post 321. And that was in 1958. So, but in meantime for this re-addressing came up. And in fact I was in the American Legion. American Legion, they opposed this re-addressing for the Japanese American that was, spent the time in the camp. And tried to get the government to give us help on that. So after that I just pulled out of American Legion.

RP: Of the redress, you were talking about?

MN: Yeah.

RP: They opposed it.

MN: Yeah, they approved it in 1988. President Reagan...

RP: Right.

MN: ...signed the...

RP: So the American Legion opposed it.

MN: Yeah, they opposed it.

RP: And how did you feel about the redress?

MN: Well, redress, well, I think the hardest part was the parents. They're the one that took... we were kids yet. But they had the hardship. But they didn't get compensated for it.

RP: Neither one of them were around?

MN: Yeah. Pop died in 1958. So only the living gets compensated, see.

RP: Right. Now you, it sounds like you, you learned a lot of skills when you were in camp. You learned how to drive and do other things.

MN: Yeah.

RP: It sounds like you also had a fun time with your group and things.

MN: Yeah, yeah.

RP: So how does, how does Manzanar fit into your life story? What, how do you reflect on that life experience?

MN: Well, not much, no. But after I got of the army I had to get some kind of trade so I just went to mechanics school, L.A. Trade Tech in L.A. Then got two years of that. And finally got a job at the Japanese garage in Boyle Heights, Japanese owned garage and worked there from 1952, '53 'til 1962. Then in the meantime I got married and had three kids. So I said well I'd better make my move, not getting any place working. I tried, looked into, tried to buy my place, shop, they wanted too much. So I, brother-in-law, have brother-in-law living in Palo Alto, California, Bay Area. So he was in landscape business so he says come up and in '52 I went. Looked around, I say okay. So I joined him and in meantime for one month I stayed with his family and I got my route started and then I called my family from L.A. and moved them up. So from there to '62, yeah, I did gardening in Bay Area. Then to, until 1982, '62 to... twenty years, then from there I moved to Sacramento in '82. Went into a bowling alley business with my ex-son-in-law, as a silent partner. But that lasted only four years. So they sold the bowling alley and all that. Anyway, so I thought well I turned sixty, I needed a job. So I thought... my daughter was already working for the state, see. So she says, "Dad, why don't you apply for a state gardening." So I said okay. So anyway she says, "I'll help you with a resume." But the oral test... you know what I'm saying? So all the experience I had doing gardening I listed everything, what I did and spraying, all that. So I got called in for an interview, oral interview and I thought there's three people on the interview panel. One Japanese guy. I found out later he was a Korean vet and he worked for the state already at that time. And he was supervisor, Sacramento DMV building. So anyway, they interviewed me and asked me all kind of question and two weeks I had to wait and they say, well you're hired. So I asked this supervisor, he was right there see after I got hired. I said, "How in the hell..." I said, "I'm sixty years old. There was a lot of young guys there." "Well," he says, "Mas, we don't care about... we want guys with experience. We don't care about the age."

RP: Yeah, and you had it too.

MN: Yeah so, anyway I got hired.

RP: All right. Well Mas, I want to thank you very much for a great interview. We really appreciated hearing your stories and on behalf of Kirk and myself and the National Park Service, thank you again.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.