Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Minoru Yamaguchi Interview
Narrator: Minoru Yamaguchi
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Ventura, California
Date: June 21, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-yminoru_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: This is Kristen Luetkemeier speaking, of Manzanar National Historic Site. I'm here in Ventura, in the home of Min Yamaguchi, and with us also is Ashley Nottingham, she's the videographer today. Today is June 21, 2012, and we'll be talking today with Min about his birth in the United States and then childhood in Japan and return to the United States in 1960, and whatever else comes up. Min, do we have your permission to conduct the interview and to keep it in the library at Manzanar, where it'll be available to the public?

MY: Yeah.

KL: Thanks. Thanks for talking with us today, too. I want to start off just asking you about your parents. Can you tell us your parents' names?

MY: Yes, my father's name is Mokichi. He is one of the four siblings, and his brothers, three other brothers, spent their time in USA, one time or another. And my dad is the number three son, and four brothers and three sisters, and they're all born in a little village called Tsunoki in southern Kyushu island, way down southern tip of Kyushu island. Today, if you want to go to Okinawa, you hope on the plane from Tokyo and they have a direct flight to Okinawa, but if you want to take a boat ride to Okinawa and Kagoshima, which is the capital city of Kagoshima, where my father was born, that's the shortest distance on a ship ride to Okinawa. So that's where they pretty much tell where the, where Kagoshima is.

KL: Okinawa's the big city where the business happens?

MY: Right, right. And my mother's name is Kiku Ono. Her maiden name is Kiku Ono, which is, she was born in a little village also, by the west of where my dad was first born. My mother was the youngest of the four sisters, four sisters, and she was... didn't want to come over to U.S., but somehow my dad wanted to. At this point, I don't know how my dad and my mother met, but...

KL: What was the name of your mother's village?

MY: She was born in 1907, 1909, and my father was born in 1899, so...

KL: And what was the town that your mother was from? You said there was a small village that she --

MY: Small village, about five miles west of where my dad was born.

KL: Does it have a name?

MY: The name of the place? The little village is called Ono, O-N-O or O-H-N-O, so ninety percent of the villagers who lived in Ono have a name Ono, so most of the names, last name's Ono there. That's pretty interesting, because I was known as Ono when I was there, because -- I could tell you why later.

KL: Yeah, yeah, I do want to hear why, and let's wait until we get to that point. Your dad's brothers, who also went to the United States, can you tell us about them?

MY: Yes. Well, I don't have too much information about his older brothers, but they all spent their times here in U.S., but they all went back before the war.

KL: What was their work while they were here, or what motivated them to come?

MY: Well, their work was all farming. But I don't know, I just don't have any idea what their motivation to come over here... so their, I mean, their siblings still here, and some of 'em in Los Angeles and some in San Francisco, Oakland area. Actually, the Yamaguchi family is one time or another, here, was a big, big family, uncles and brothers and cousins and, one time or another it was a big family. But most of 'em are gone now.

KL: Did they come back, then? You said his, your dad's brothers came to the United States and then went back to Japan.

MY: No, they never came back.

KL: Oh, they stayed in the United States.

MY: They went back to live there for good.

KL: How did the other Yamaguchis come? Were they younger people?

MY: The brothers?

KL: Was it your dad's brothers who came?

MY: Yes.

KL: Okay, and they settled in the West Coast and stayed.

MY: Yes, they're, all four brothers were in the United States one time or another. And the older two brothers went back before the war, and my uncles, my dad went back in 1941. And the youngest one, my uncle Hiroshi, his name is Hiroshi, he ended up staying here all the rest of his life. And he's the one that, most successful one, because he married to the lady who was born here, so she had American citizen, and Hiroshi and his family was, instead of going to the camp, they moved to Colorado to work in the farms. So I think for a short time they, I understand they were in the Tule Lake in California, and from there they were given a choice to, either to go in a, to stay there in a camp or move away from there to elsewhere inland or inner states, to work and, you know, private.

KL: Were they in a camp in Colorado?

MY: No, there's no camp in Colorado. People who went to Colorado, I understand it was just, they had, free to do anything, so most of 'em worked in the farms. So I know a lot of friends, a lot of people that did that. In fact, my friend Tom's dad did that. I think instead of them going to Colorado, they went to Utah, I believe.

KL: Your dad's family was, were farmers in Japan?

MY: Yes. Yes, they're all farmers and predominantly planting rice. Rice is the major crop. And besides that, they didn't have, little cattle farming because those days there's no tractors to use in the farms, so they used the cow to plow rice field and so forth, so on. So not only the cattle brought the cash income, because they fatten up and then they would train that thing, then they get some cash and they buy a new calf, and then just did the same thing over and over. So that gave them a good cash income. And the rice, rice production is just mainly to feed the families. That's what it was.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.