Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Madelon Arai Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Madelon Arai Yamamoto
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Independence, California
Date: May 6, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ymadelon-01-0001

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RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Madelon Yamamoto, and our interview is taking place in the West Theater of the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center. The date of the interview is May 6, 2011. The interviewer is Richard Potashin, and the videographer is Kirk Peterson. Also in attendance for our interview is Madelon's niece, Kelly.

KY: Yuki.

RP: Kelly Yuki. And our interview will be archived in the Park's library, and we'll be following up on an earlier interview that was conducted with Madelon by Erin Brasfield September 12, 2006. Madelon, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

MY: Certainly.

RP: Thank you so much for taking time. I know it's really special for you to be back here and be involved with your father's garden and the excavation of that. So again, we just want to kind of elaborate on some of the stories that you shared with us earlier and to draw out a few more details of those. So first of all, I'd like to ask you about your father. Can you give us his name, full name?

MY: His name was Jack Hanshiro Arai, and he left, I'm sure it was, I'm not sure if it was Osaka or Tokyo, but when he was only fifteen years old. And he sailed across the ocean and didn't land on the West Coast of the United States, ended in Port Arthur, Texas. His older brother had gone to Texas ahead of him and was a rice farmer. So it's very brave at fifteen to cross the ocean by himself, no other relative or friend to come with him, and he landed in Port Arthur and he found my brother, his brother, and started living in Texas. But he was bilingual, bi-literate. He went to an English school in Osaka and so he spoke English fluently, was able to write and read also in Japanese, so he had that advantage.

RP: Great tool to have going to America, speaking the language.

MY: Yes. He was a farmer there for a short while, and then he left Texas with his older brother and settled in Los Angeles. I don't know what year, but I do have a few old pictures where he's leading some horses on a farm, so I know he was on a farm in Texas.

RP: And you, his older brother, do you know how much earlier he had come over and settled in Texas?

MY: No, and his only son passed away about ten years ago and he never spoke about when his father had arrived here in the United States.

RP: What was his older brother's name?

MY: Kakunosuke Arai.

RP: And did, your father coming over at age fifteen, you know what his reasoning for coming to America was, other than to join his brother?

MY: Well, I think that he felt that there are better economic opportunities here in the United States than remaining in Japan. I don't believe his father was a farmer, so I don't think there was land or anything for him there. He just felt it necessary to leave, and having the language skills, I think that was an advantage for him. And he didn't have any other ties, he had, his mother was still back there and his brother, older, just, I don't know his name, was also in Japan, in Tokyo. I don't think he corresponded much with his brother. His older brother, Mr., we called him Mr. Arai, he's the one that carried on with all the correspondence with his mother and his other brother in Japan.

RP: Did he, he actually married your mother, who was actually Nisei.

MY: Yes, she was born in Riverside, California. They got married in 1930, October 1930.

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