Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George T. "Joe" Sakato Interview
Narrator: George T. "Joe" Sakato
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: May 14, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-sgeorge-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is Wednesday, May 14, 2008. We're in Denver, Washington, and...

GS: Denver, Colorado.

TI: Denver, Colorado. [Laughs] And today I have the pleasure of interviewing Joe Sakato. But before we get to you, in the room we have Kirk Peterson, who is operating the camera, and my name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm with the Densho project in Seattle. And so this interview is being conducted in partnership with the National Park Service, so the Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho are partnering doing these interviews, and so this will be a copy that not only Densho will have on our website, but the National Park Service at Manzanar will also have. So I just wanted to let you know that. So Joe, I'm going to start by asking you, what was the name given to you at birth?

GS: My name was, Dad wanted to call me Jyotaro Sakato. Jyotaro Sakato was, Jyotaro was a sword-bearer for Musashi samurai, and so my dad wanted to call me Jyotaro. He sees in the paper G-E-O, well, that's "Joe," Jyotaro Sakato. He gave to the doctor, doctor looks at it, "G-E-O, that's all right." So he turned it into vital statistics, and they turned it around and, "Oh, that's the baby, for George." So it became George T. Sakato. But all my life I've been called Joe.

TI: So that's funny. So your parents always called you Joe, but on your birth certificate it said, "George."

GS: George.

TI: And at some point --

GS: And when I got to high school, they said, "You better start using your real name. Your birth certificate says, 'George.'" So anything I have to sign, I have to sign "George," because that's what the birth certificate says.

TI: Okay, but for the purpose of this interview, I'm going to call you Joe if that's okay with you. So even though your legal name is George, we'll call you Joe. And so Joe, can you tell me where and when you were born?

GS: I was born in 1921, February 19, 1921, in the town of Colton, which is the hub city for the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. And they were the hubs, when the Union Pacific was north and south and Southern Pacific was east and west, and the, so all the, my parents had a barber shop.

TI: Okay, before we go there, so Colton was at this major crossing of these two main railroads.

GS: Two main railroads.

TI: This is southern California, San Bernardino area?

GS: Yes.

TI: Okay, so right there, so you were gonna say, so your parents --- before we talk about what your parents do, let's first talk about your siblings and kind of your brothers and sisters. And so who, who were they?

GS: My older sister was named Grace Sakato, and then my older brother's Henry Yoshitake Sakato, then Ken, Kenbo Sakato was the third one, then Fumiko Sakato was my fourth sister, then there was a George Toru Sakato, but he died when he was just two, three years old. And then I was born and my Dad wanted to call me Jyotaro Sakato.

TI: And so you were, not counting your, the brother who died, so there were five, five kids?

GS: Uh-huh. And then John Toshiaki Sakato was right below me, and the youngest was James Sakato. Hideki, his name was Hideki, James Hideki Sakato. He's the youngest.

TI: Okay, so I count, so I count five boys, two girls?

GS: Uh-huh.

TI: And in terms of, kind of, age difference, your oldest sister Grace, how much older was she than you?

GS: Well, I forgot -- Fumi was older than me, then Toru, and then Ken, and Henry, so Grace must have been five or six years older than I.

TI: Okay, and you were born in 1921. Any of your siblings still alive?

GS: Just the two younger ones are alive.

TI: So John and James.

GS: And my sister Fumi is still alive.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.