Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Ko Nishimura Interview
Narrator: Ko Nishimura
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Campbell, California
Date: July 14, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-nko-01-0001

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KL: Okay, today is July the 14th, 2015. My name is Kristen Luetkemeier, I'm a park ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site. I'm here for an interview with Ko Nishimura. We're in Ecopia Farms, his operation here in San Jose, California. Larisa Proulx is operating the video camera from the Tule Lake unit, and we'll be talking with Ko about his family background, including his father and his uncle who were very involved in guayule at Manzanar, and also Ko's own experiences at Manzanar and his adult life. That was a long way of getting there, but Ko, do I have your permission to be talking to you today, to record this and make it available to the public?

KN: Of course.

KL: Okay, thanks for having us. Let's start off by talking about the family that your father grew up in. Would you tell us the names of his parents and what you know about their lives?

KN: On my dad's side, they were farmers. They were farmers in Japan, they had a farm in Japan. And actually, my dad came to America about, when he was about six, seven, years old. And they lived on, they farmed at 191st and Van Ness and Gardena. He's a graduate of Venice High School, he went to Berkeley, to the University of California, and his freshman and sophomore year as a (mechanical) engineering major, and he realized that Japanese could never be a white collar worker in those days, and so he transferred to Davis and received a degree in agricultural engineering.

KL: Do you know around when he came to the United States? You said he was about eight? What year was that?

KN: I don't know. I don't know.

KL: Do you know when he was born, approximately?

KN: Let's see... no, I wouldn't know. It must have been in, like, 1910, 1912 or something like that.

KL: And what do you know about his life and his family's life in Japan? Where were they from, what was their work there, what was their economic educational background?

KN: Well, they came from the Yamanashi Prefecture, which is due west of Tokyo. And as a matter of fact, most people are familiar with Mt. Fuji. The ocean side is Shizuoka, and they're known for their tea growing, the back side is Yamanashi. And they have some very pretty areas because the back side of Mt. Fuji, but they almost live at the base of Mt. Fuji, and they farmed. So that was the genesis of... they're not quite sure. I think my grandfather came initially, that grandfather came because the Japanese government sent him to study agriculture. And he decided to stay, so he stayed. And then he called his family over, and that side of it. The other side of the family was also Sendai. And the Sendai side is, turned out they were farmers, and they were big farmers. And they had tremendous acreage, and it turned out that my grandfather was number five son, so by Japanese possession and ownership handed down, number five gets zero, literally, because the oldest gets everything. So he came to America, but before he came, he somehow, the Sendai High School (principal) took a real liking to him and went to my grandfather's father, I guess that would be my great grandfather, and asked him, he wanted to sponsor him into Tohoku University. So he's sort of unusual for a Japanese Issei that came over from Japan. He had a college degree. And when he got here, he started a nursery in Pasadena, California, a pretty big nursery. So that's where (I) was born and raised until the Second World War came along.

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