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-01-0011

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RP: And you mentioned that your father loved his garden in Boyle Heights where he lived before camp.

MY: Yes.

RP: Did he -- and then he became a gardener -- did he also build gardens prior, or I mean, I should say after camp?

MY: Yes. They bought a home on Harvard, Harvard and Olympic in Los Angeles, and he continued gardening, and then he suffered a massive coronary in 1953 and he could work only part time, but, so he started doing a little bit gardening in his backyard, and he built a koi pond. I attribute my father's coronary to having worked seven days a week from, let me see, July of 1945 until November of 1953 my father worked every single day. He didn't take a day off as a gardener because that's what he had to do to maintain the family.

RP: Support the family.

MY: Yes.

RP: Can you describe the garden, the koi pond that he built?

MY: It was a very small koi pond, and it was in the backyard and it was right next to the clothesline. And he had the koi pond, and then right next to it, as usual, he had his little vegetable patch, and then he had his chrysanthemums behind it. And then off in the back he raised pigeons, 'cause he loved to eat squab, and so he raised squab. [Laughs] And so at heart he was very like a country boy, wanted to live on the farm. And the koi, this time they were beautiful koi, the Japanese variegated color koi, and that was his hobby and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

RP: Was it a concrete-lined pond?

MY: Yes, it was a concrete-lined pond. Yes. But it was much smaller. It wasn't as large as the one that he had here in Manzanar. It was maybe by, eight by seven -- maybe that's larger, I don't know. From here maybe up to the third row. That's pretty big, isn't it? Yeah. But he maintained it, and people would come over to admire the different colors of the koi, because the Japanese koi, they're admired because of the color too.

RP: And the koi have a pretty strong symbolic, carp especially, for, for...

MY: For boys.

RP: For boys. Boy's Day.

MY: Yes, 'cause they can, supposedly very strong going up, swimming upstream.

RP: Right. Did you fly the carp when...

MY: My father was proud to fly three carp. [Laughs] He had three sons. Yes, he used to fly them.

RP: Did that also happen here in camp too? Do you recall anybody flying carp to celebrate Boy's Day?

MY: I don't remember that. I don't, no, I don't remember that at all.

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