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_2-01-0003

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KL: And he was living in Spreckels when your mom came, is that right?

MY: Yes. And when he got there, from Inglewood area, he was able to negotiate a deal with the American farmers there, the farm owner there. That was what I understand was sharecropping. I don't know how it worked, but he, that's where he started farming. And because of the Spreckels, those days they had that factory there, the sugar factory -- that building is still standing today -- so Spreckels is known as a sugar factory town, that all the farmers those days grew predominantly sugar beets because they'd just harvest sugar beets and take 'em over to the factory.

KL: And sell it to the factory.

MY: Yeah, sell to the factory.

KL: So he rented acreage, he rented land and a house, but grew his own crops and sold 'em to the factory.

MY: I guess that's how it worked. But I don't know, he grew sugar beets for the landowner and then landowner sold the sugar beets to the factory. That I know, and he got the percentage of whatever -- I really don't know what the sharecropping means.

KL: Might mean different things to different people.

MY: Right, right. So that's, that's what he was doing. But, so about 1929 Mom came and -- the year or two before he, I mean she came to visit.

KL: She did?

MY: She came to visit. I didn't, I don't know if she was... they were married in Japan before my dad left, but anyway, she came to visit my dad in 1927 or '28.

KL: But you think they were married in, they were both present at their marriage ceremony in Japan?

MY: I have no idea. But the family registry says that they were married February 6, 1927, so...

KL: Sometimes people were married in Japan without the husband being present. It was a legal certificate, and then the wife would come to the United States and join the husband there.

MY: Right.

KL: So I wonder if that's what they did.

MY: Maybe that, probably happened. But anyway --

KL: When was her visit?

MY: Pardon?

KL: When was her visit to your father? You said she came to the United States for a visit, before she moved here?

MY: No, just, she took out a short visit visa, I don't know, maybe two weeks visiting visa or whatever, and she just overstayed. She just overstayed. In 1929 my brother George was born, then the following year my sister, Amy, was born. So George and Amy's is about a year difference, or maybe a just little, one months or two months, different, a year different.

KL: Do they have Japanese names also, your siblings George and Amy?

MY: Yes, yes.

KL: What are their Japanese names?

MY: George Masaharu, Amy Emiko, and then my other brother, Bob Shigeto. And I'm Minoru, a Japanese name. They never came up with an American name for me. So I should've asked that question long ago, why only me have Japanese name, not American name? And after they went back, they had my younger sister. She was born in Japan, and then they made my youngest sister Mary. Why, she was born in Japan and the name Mary, why, me, I was born in America. Why they didn't come up with an American name, you know?

KL: Does Mary have a Japanese name at all?

MY: Who's that?

KL: Does Mary have a Japanese name at all?

MY: Well, they call Meriko. So it's, I always think, so why didn't they come up with American name for me? Minoru. Minoru is a good name. I like that, actually, the meaning that, the plant or... yeah, mostly plants, something growing and the process of being, becoming, forming a seed or fruit.

KL: Minoru means something growing?

MY: Yeah. No, the becoming of the fruitation or seeding or, become a seed or fruits. Or sometimes business, like when you start the business, you work real hard and then being successful, well, that process called minoru. So your business is minoru, that means you're successful. So in other words, if you plant the plants, take care of it, then, like for instance, say if you want to, if you plant an apple tree, young apple tree, you take care of it for three years and it grows nice and big and then soon you have fruits, and that process means minoru.

KL: That is a good name.

MY: So I like that, Minoru, but living here and then mingle with American, English-speaking people, Minoru, it sounds unfamiliar, so people start me calling me, "So okay, I'm not gonna call you Minoru. I'm gonna call you Min." That's fine. So that's how my name Min came from. People just start calling me Min instead of Minoru.

KL: So you grew up as Minoru, but when you came back to the U.S. it shortened to Min.

MY: Min, uh-huh.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.