Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Katsumi Okamoto
Narrator: Katsumi Okamoto
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 7, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-okatsumi-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: My name is Richard Potashin, we are at the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Minidoka reunion. We are this morning interviewing Kats Okamoto, a former internee at the --

KO: Can I correct that? That's Kats.

RP: Kats.

KO: K-A-T-S.

RP: Okay. Kats Okamoto. And he was a former internee at Puyallup Assembly Center.

KO: Yes.

RP: And then later on, at Minidoka War Relocation Center. The date of the interview is November 7, 2007, and our videographer for this interview is Kirk Peterson. And Kats, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us this morning. Can I refer to you as Kats?

KO: Kats, yes.

RP: And I'd like to start our interview by getting a little background information on you and your family. Can you tell us, first, where you were born and what year?

KO: I was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1926. July 5th.

RP: Were you born at home or were you born in a hospital?

KO: I was born, delivered by a midwife.

RP: Which was sort of the tradition at that time?

KO: Yes.

RP: Was there a hospital that served the Japanese community in Seattle?

KO: There was a hospital, yes. Some of the ones that could afford it, I think, went to the hospitals.

RP: Right, it was an issue of economics.

KO: Yes, I think it was.

RP: As most everything is. [Laughs] What was your given name at birth?

KO: Katsumi, spelled K-A-T-S-U-M-I. Katsumi Okamoto.

RP: And you had quite a large family and a large number of siblings. Can you give us their names in order of their birth?

KO: Yes. Hannah -- I don't have their birthdates exactly -- but Hannah, Hanako, I think is now eighty-five, Miyeko is eighty-four...

RP: How much older is...

KO: We're quite close together, year and a half apart.

RP: How much older is Hanako than you?

KO: She would be, well, she's gotta be five years older than me. So she is eighty-six, she won't admit it. [Laughs] Miyeko is next, then my brother, John, who is here, Mamoru, that's his name.

RP: Mamoru.

KO: Yeah, and he was, he was born in 1924, and my younger sister was born in 1929, 1930. Kazuko.

RP: So you still have most of your...

KO: We're all alive yet.

RP: That's really fortunate. Did you ever have an English name, were you given an English name at birth?

KO: I got it, given to me, I'm trying to think. I went to work on a farm in Twin Falls, Idaho, the first time I went out, and somehow I picked up the name Richard. This farmer's wife thought Richard was good. And then I think someone else agreed it was good. So I picked up the name Richard, and it's on my national register now, too, as Richard Katsumi Okamoto.

RP: Well, I support that name, too, so... that's a good name. What about your Japanese name? Many, many people sort of know what their name means.

KO: Well, yeah, my name in Japanese kanji or, is "win beautifully." Katsu is "win" and Mi is utsukushii in Japanese, which is "beautiful." So evidently it means good sport.

RP: How about your last name, Okamoto?

KO: Okamoto would be oka, base of a cliff or mountain, I mean, down to the ocean, yeah, Okamoto. Moto is the base, oka, I think, is "cliff."

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.