Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Taira Fukushima Interview
Narrator: Taira Fukushima
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: August 9, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ftaira-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

KP: Today is August 9, 2011, we're at the Main Street Station Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, conducting an interview with Taira Fukushima. And we are here for the Manzanar reunion, the narrator, myself... or the interviewer is Kirk Peterson, and behind the camera we have Rose Masters, and Jeff Burton is also in the room as is Whitney Peterson. This interview is being conducted for the Manzanar National Historic site and will be archived at the site. And once again, do I have your permission to tape this interview?

TF: Yes.

KP: Thank you very much. I also wanted to tell the rest of the folks in the room, if a question comes up that you really need, you think needs to be asked, please feel free to interrupt me, just kind of find the lull in the conversation, then ask, because I can forget some of this stuff. And I think that's it for the technical aspects of what we need. So let's get started. And I will also ask you to spell things, because the person who transcribes this, who takes this tape and writes it up, may not be me, so... I will ask you...

TF: You'll have to cue me on all that.

KP: Yeah, I will ask you to spell. For example, could you please spell your name, first name?

TF: Taira, spelled T-A-I-R-A.

KP: And your last name?

TF: Fukushima, F like in Frank, U-K-U-S-H-I-M-A.

KP: And is it okay if I call you Taira?

TF: You could call me T.

KP: T, oh, that's right, we'll leave here. Thank you. So, T, where were you born?

TF: Los Angeles, California.

KP: And what was the date you were born?

TF: February 8, 1926.

KP: And what part of Los Angeles were you born?

TF: Oh, it was on the, what's known as Uptown in those days, but actually it was 1023 South Catalina Street in Los Angeles.

KP: And what do you know about your parents? Where did your father come from?

TF: Well, he came from Kumamoto, Japan.

KP: And could you spell Kumamoto?

TF: K-U-M-A-M-O-T-O.

KP: And do you know when he was born?

TF: He was born in 1881, but I have to look up the particulars.

KP: That's okay. Do you know what his family did in Japan?

TF: Well, more than likely they were farmers. Since... in the last forty years or so, some of the acquaintances looked over the koseki tohon, which is more or less the genealogy, and they said that we come from a samurai background, and that the name Taira was supposed to be Heikuro, because my father thought that was a little old fashioned. But someone in the family is supposed to have the name Taira, and that's all I know about that. But usually what happens is that when you hear the relatives, they said they left because they were so poor, they had to go elsewhere to make money.

KP: So what did your father do when he came to the United States when he arrived, do you know?

TF: All I know for sure is that he worked on the railroad. I think he went to Hawaii first and then came. But I know he worked on the railroad because he used to talk about it. And after that, all I know is that after I was born, he was the janitor that I saw infrequently.

KP: So do you know which railroad, and where he worked, and about the time that he came over?

TF: Well, when we had to look up some information, the Union Pacific Railroad had records of him working for the railroad, at least 1902, '03, '04, in Utah and Wyoming, just like he sort of mentioned to us, but at least officially we got the word.

Off camera: What did he do for the railroad?

TF: For the railroad?

Off camera: What work did he do for the railroad?

TF: I guess as low as the Orientals could do, I guess the only difference between him and the Chinese was that they had to do whatever they were told because he didn't have any, quote, experience or education.

Off camera: So maybe he built the railroad?

TF: No, he wouldn't be in that status. He worked on the railroad. At those times, I'm sure they were, helped make it.

KP: But also section work...

TF: That kind of stuff, I would think. However, I never questioned too much about it. One of the reasons is that he spoke a little bit, little English, and it's the English that he would learn, and I didn't speak Japanese because I'm not, I didn't take that too seriously. So our conversations were, you know, just a mixture of the languages.

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