Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kenji Ogawa Interview
Narrator: Kenji Ogawa
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 21, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-okenji_2-01-0001

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KL: This is Kristen Luetkemeier, I'm a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site, here for an interview with Kenji Ogawa. He was the first baby born in Manzanar, and we'll be talking a lot about his parents' experiences before they were sent to Manzanar, and while they were there, and then also about the family's experiences in Tule Lake and in Japan immediately after the war ended. Rose Masters is in the room, too, from the National Park Service, she's operating the camera, and Alice Ogawa, Kenji's wife, is also here. We're in the Villa Brasil Motel in Culver City, California, and today is May 21, 2015. And Kenji, I want to make sure that we have your permission to be talking to you today, to record the interview, and to make it available to the public.

KO: [Nods].

KL: Okay, thank you. I'm glad, this has kind of been years in the making this formal oral history, so I'm glad it's happening. Let's start talking about your dad's family, and first if you could just tell us his name and when and where he was born.

KO: My dad's name?

KL: Uh-huh.

KO: Oh. Japanese name, Hatsuji Ogawa, and English name Harry. He was born San Jose.

KL: Do you know what year he was born? It says 1917 in something that I looked at. Does that seem about right?

KO: Yeah.

KL: Do you know his parents' names?

KO: [Laughs] I don't know, no.

KL: Do you know what their work was in San Jose?

KO: I guess farmer, I don't remember. His father's parents.

KL: What kind of stories did you hear from your dad about his early life at San Jose?

KO: San Jose, he said, "I just go to school." He never did farming. Then he was, I guess, a young age, he went back to, family went to Japan. (...)

KL: Did your dad like school in San Jose? What did he say about school?

KO: Yeah, he said it was good. My mom was born in Hilo.

KL: When did your dad's family go to Japan?

KO: He was about, I think, ten. Then came back fourteen, back again here.

KL: And he traveled with his parents to Japan?

KO: Yes.

KL: Who else was in the family that your dad grew up in? Did he have siblings?

KO: I mean, his brother.

KL: Who was his brother? It's gonna seem weird, 'cause I'm gonna ask you some questions that I already know the answers to, but just for the tape and for others.

KO: The name is Yoshio.

KL: And was Yoshio older or younger?

KO: No, younger. They have three, two sisters and my dad.

KL: Were the sisters older or younger?

KO: Younger. My dad was the oldest one.

KL: Do you know their names?

KO: [Laughs] No.

KL: It's okay. And the whole family went to Japan when your dad was about ten, you said, or so?

KO: Yes, he came back.

KL: Do you know why the family went to Japan?

KO: I guess, you know, my father's parents built nice homes, depending -- you know, they made money, so he wants to go back to Japan and build a house. They saved money, so went to Japan.

KL: So they were pretty successful in San Jose.

KO: Yeah. I guess those days, all the Japanese people making money, they go back to Japan, you're comfortable, built a house.

KL: Were all four kids born in San Jose?

KO: Yes.

KL: Where in Japan was your dad's family from?

KO: Kumamoto, Kamana.

KL: And what do you know about Kumamoto when he moved back there? What was it like in the...

KO: "Oh, I don't want to come home this way. Then I tell my mom, 'Let me stay in Japan.' It was so fun," you know. [Laughs] "I said, 'I don't want to come home.'"

KL: What was his family work in Kumamoto? Were they farmers or merchants?

KO: No. My mother's side... what is it? Government, governor.

KL: What about your dad's family?

KO: That side, he went back, they all passed away. You know, sister and mother, dad, they're all gone. That's the reason he wants, coming back. Fourteen, so he came back here.

KL: Oh, wow, they all died in those four years?

KO: Yeah.

KL: Oh, how sad.

KO: Sad. That's why, yeah, nobody.

KL: Do you know what happened to cause all the deaths?

KO: I never asked him that. But they all passed away.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.