Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Robert Katsuto Fujioka Interview
Narrator: Robert Katsuto Fujioka
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Santa Ana, California
Date: June 20, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-frobert-01-0002

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KL: I was interested, too, to read that your dad's family had traditionally been Buddhist priests or caretakers of the temple. I wonder if you could talk about what that meant for him to leave that.

RF: Well, I don't know an awful lot about that except, well, one or two visits. But in Kyushu, he grew up in the city of, it was a village called Setaka, Setaka-machi. And the family was the village Buddhist priest. And so his, being he was the eldest son, had two sisters, and, of course, he was the next in line to become the next Buddhist priest, which he didn't want to have happen. So that's why he, one of the motivations of going to the United States, because he didn't want to be a priest.

KL: Did he keep up Buddhist traditions or practices?

RF: Well, we're an avid Buddhist family. So if, did attend, but he wasn't a priest. And, in fact, his sister, eldest sister, married, and the husband had to agree to take the Fujioka name so that they could carry on the priest tradition. And so their son became the next village priest. And when I first went to Japan, oh, gosh, when was that? In the '60s, I guess it was, early '60s, we went down there to meet them. It was really a remote area, it was a very small village. It was not too friendly. And I wasn't quite sure why until I learned later that, the story, and I was the one that should have been the priest. [Laughs]

KL: Yeah, I wondered if your aunt minded that she had to find a partner who would agree to that.

RF: Yeah. Anyway, that's the interesting part of the history, but that's all I know about that.

KL: So did all of your father's siblings remain in Japan?

RF: Well, he has two sisters, and they were both there.

KL: Do you know what took him to the United States?

RF: My father? Well, I think he was that type of person. He was very independent, very westernized in his thinking, although that was his first experience out of Japan at the time. But he was young and adventurous and wanted to get out and do more for himself. But it was... not having an education, he had to do mostly laboring type of work.

KL: Okay. And tell me his name. I guess we should get people's names on the recording, too.

RF: His first name was Ryusho, that's R-Y-U-S-H-O, and my mother's first name was Sumako.

KL: Okay. How did the two of them meet each other?

RF: That I don't know. I don't know the history of how they met, but they were both in Little Tokyo at the time.

KL: Okay. So it was somewhere there. And then they moved together out of Little Tokyo?

RF: My recollection is, I have a brother and sister, both older than me. And when I was a little toddler is when we moved from Los Angeles, and I'm not sure where we lived there, to Sawtelle. And I know we lived in a little house on Idaho Street, and the only thing I could remember is that I was told I was a rascal, and they had to fish me out of a fish pond and those kind of stories.

KL: [Laughs] What are your siblings' names?

RF: Pardon?

KL: What are your brother and sister's names?

RF: My brother's name was William and my sister's name was Mary. They all have Japanese middle names. His was Takashi, and my sister's name, middle name is Shizue. And my dad was an avid tennis player, and when he was in San Francisco, played a lot of tennis. And some of the famous local tennis players were where our names came from William for some famous tennis player in San Francisco by that name, and Mary was also a famous tennis player, and Robert. So that's where our names came from.

KL: And so you're the baby.

RF: Yeah.

KL: Yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.