Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sumiko Yamauchi Interview
Narrator: Sumiko Yamauchi
Interviewer: Whitney Peterson
Location: Chula Vista, California
Date: July 23, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ysumiko_2-01-0001

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WP: So today is July 23, 2013. This is Whitney Peterson for Manzanar National Historic Site. We're also here with Kristen Luetkemeier from Manzanar as well, and we're doing an oral history with Sue Yamauchi? Is that how you say that?

SY: Uh-huh.

WP: And also present in the room is Sue's son Victor. And, Sue, do you consent to having this interview recorded and available to the public?

SY: Yes.

WP: So start with an easy question. Can you tell me your birth date?

SY: My birth date is January 11, 1927.

WP: And where were you born?

SY: In Los Angeles.

WP: Were you born in a hospital?

SY: No, no, it was a midwife.

WP: Okay. And can you please state your name for us as well as your maiden name?

SY: My name is Sumiko... Sumiko Nemoto, and I married a Yamauchi.

WP: Okay. And how do you spell your maiden name?

SY: N-E-M-O-T-O.

WP: And how do you spell your married name?

SY: Y-A-M-A-U-C-H-I.

WP: Okay. And can you tell us your father's name?

SY: My father's name is Yajuro Nemoto, and it's spelled Y-A-J-U-R-O.

WP: And do you know what his birth date was or when he was born?

SY: I think his birthday was in March. I can't remember the date. And he was born in Japan in 1898.

WP: Okay. And what was your mother's name?

SY: My mother's name was Rui, R-U-I, Nemoto. And she just died not too long ago, 2005, I think it was. She was a hundred and three when she died.

WP: Wow. So when was her birth date?

SY: Hers was March. I can't remember what day it was. But she was a hundred and three when she died.

WP: Uh-huh, okay. And what part of Japan was your father from?

SY: Fukushima. That's where they had that big tsunami, where they... what was it? The nuclear plants was...

WP: Yeah, just not too long ago.

SY: Yeah, not too long ago.

WP: And was your mother from Japan as well, was she from the same area?

SY: Yes, they were both from the same area.

WP: And what do you know about their lives in Japan, or your grandparents' lives in Japan?

SY: Well, my father's father, during the gold rush, came to America because, I guess, like he says, gold was easy to pick off the street. Of course, it wasn't that way, but he came to America. But in those days, in the late 1800s, you couldn't, America wasn't open for foreigners. And the Japanese just couldn't come into America, so my great grandfather -- and I tell my son this -- was one of the original "wetback." You know what that is. Because he came in from Mexico and came over the border, and that's how he got here into America. And my father came to America to find his father because they hadn't heard from him for a while. And that's how they came to America.

WP: Okay. So your great grandfather just came by himself.

SY: Yeah, he came by himself.

WP: And what about your mother's family in Japan?

SY: My mother -- my father wanted a wife, so he went back home. And he knew my mother's family, so he married her and brought her back to America.

WP: Okay. And so when your father came the first time to find his father, was he successful in that?

SY: Was he what?

WP: Was he successful in that? Did he find his father?

SY: He did find, after... it took him quite a while. Because when my father arrived in America, he arrived in northern part of... was it California? Or maybe it could be Arizona, I mean, Oregon. But he had to come down all the way and work his way down from north because he knew his father would be somewhere here in Los Angeles. And so when he came, finally went to Los Angeles, he went to different places finally, in the meantime working. And I think he was, in those days, they used to have... what do they call? Migrant workers, you know. Like fruit picking, I think that's what he was. He used to pick fruit, so he had to travel wherever the, there were work. And he did finally find my father, his father, I mean. And once he found his father, then he went back to Japan, got my mother, got married, came back. And I think Grandfather got sick, and he lived with us for a while. I was still a little girl, I can't remember that well. I do remember he was there.

WP: So he stayed in the United States?

SY: He never went back.

WP: He never went back?

SY: He never went back.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.