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_2-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: What motivated your father to leave and come to the United States?

MY: As a young man, he was getting some training as being a carpenter, however, he wanted to come over to seek out the new world. I don't know why he wanted to do that because his older brothers were already here, or he wanted to go elsewhere. That I don't know, but one thing I know, he got on the ship that predominantly carried immigrants, Japanese immigrants, to go to Brazil, and then they, the ship was even named Brazil Maru. And when the ship reached here on the West Coast, for some reason, I guess the ship stopped in Baja, California, somewhere, I think in Encinitas, but I'm not sure. I guess the ship stopped there because, to pick up some supplies or refuel to continue to go to Brazil. But for unknown reasons, the ship stopped there, so at which time my dad and some other fellow passengers decided to jump off the ship and then wanted to trek over north to the border.

KL: Did your dad ever tell you who came, who left the ship with him? Were they friends of his?

MY: No. Just, he's, I remember he was telling me some, with some other friends he said. And he jumped off the ship and then started walking toward the, to the U.S. border toward San Diego.

KL: That sounded like quite a journey, from what you've written. Do you, what did he tell you about the trip?

MY: Yeah, he didn't, he didn't get into too much detail how the trip came about, but the one thing he was mentioning was that he was really worried about being bitten by a rattlesnake and the dehydration, walking on the hills of San Diego. So he said some other, some of the people get bitten by rattlesnakes and then end up dying in the hills of San Diego somewhere. And to get some water, he was told to cut down the cactus tree, to suck on the cactus, that would be the best way to get the, to get hydrated. So that's what he did, and then he was fine, he said. So luckily he made it to the border, and then he kept on mentioning about the place called Capistrano. As a boy, I remember the name 'cause I didn't know where Capistrano is located or anything. So now of course, we know that's San Juan Capistrano. I guess he found someone there, farmers, Japanese farmers who were willing to have him work there. I don't know how long he worked there, and then from there he just kept on going north. And he was, another place that he was mentioning was Long Beach, and I knew, I'd never seen, I'd never been in Long Beach, but I knew the name when I was there. And then he also mentioned Inglewood, so that's near where, the L.A. International Airport's somewhere in there, I imagine. And they did some farm work there, and then he continued going north.

KL: Do you think he worked for the Japanese families that he met in San Juan Capistrano?

MY: Yes, all Japanese, all Japanese families, farmers.

KL: Did he just stay for a while and help out on the farms, do you think?

MY: My dad? Yes. Yes, that's what he did. I didn't hear anything about he was with his brother at any time or anything. I don't know he spent any time with them or not, but he kept on going north, and that's where he finally ended up in Salinas.

KL: Why do you think he decided on Salinas as a place to settle?

MY: I think he had a couple friends who were already there, farming or working for the farms, somewhere in Salinas. And he mentioned something about Gilroy. That's another familiar name to me, so this is such-and-such in Gilroy, there's something, he used to always mention that.

KL: To me too, 'cause I like garlic. [Laughs]

MY: Yeah. And then he, another town he was, he used to mention was Gonzales. Gonzales is just before you get to Salinas; there's a little town called Gonzales.

KL: So he would talk about these places to you when you were a kid.

MY: Yes. My mom did that.

KL: What did he say about his experiences there?

MY: Pardon?

KL: What did he say about his experiences there? Was it hard, or did he like the people he met?

MY: Well, I haven't heard much about the, his experience with the other farming friends, except the fact that sometimes he would go downtown Salinas to have a drink with them. In fact, lots of drink, according to my mom, go in downtown Salinas and have a lot of drink, and she used to worry about whether he's gonna be able to come home safely. The fact that my mom always mentioned that there is a railroad track runs right along the main road there, and sometimes he'd come in so late, coming home so late and she's been waiting and then she start wanting, says, "I hope you won't get run over by a train or something like that." So that was her worries. But anyway, as far as the, my dad's friends' farming operations, I don't know who, what they did or where they farmed, anything like that. But I do remember him mentioning about some friends in Gilroy, Gonzales. And where my dad ended up was in Spreckels, and that's where we all were born, in Spreckels. That's west of Salinas, in the foothill of the, that Big Sur mountain range there. So in other words, on the other side it's Big Sur and this side is Spreckels, and then there's a big field, expand, and then downtown Salinas is on the eastern side of it.

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