Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Shig Kaseguma Interview
Narrator: Shig Kaseguma
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: November 6, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-kshig-01-0001

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RP: My name is Richard Potashin. We're at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and this afternoon, we're interviewing Shig Kaseguma, a former internee at the Minidoka War Relocation Center. Shig, were you also at Puyallup, too?

SK: Yes, I was at "Camp Harmony," too.

RP: "Camp Harmony," also known as the Puyallup Assembly Center. The date of our interview is November 6, 2007, and our videographer is Kirk Peterson. Shig, thank you so much for sharing some time during this reunion schedule to join us in sharing your family and camp history. Let's start our interview by having you give us the date and the place of your birth.

SK: I was born on June 4, 1921, in Seattle, Washington.

RP: Okay. And what was your given name at birth?

SK: It was Shigeki Paul Kaseguma. I was given Paul at the same time I was baptized, in July, a day after, I mean, a month after my birth, in a Christian family.

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

SK: I was born in a hospital.

RP: You were, in Seattle?

SK: In Seattle. Which was kind of a rarity then.

RP: Right, during the early '20s. In talking with folks from the Los Angeles area, many of them were born at home with midwives. And it was very rare until later on for Issei women to be given...

SK: Yeah. Generally, it was Issei women who were midwives. It was a lot of people.

RP: Do you have any insight into the meaning of your first and last name?

SK: Well, Kaseguma comes from my grandfather, who was a lord in Hongo, Japan.

RP: Hongo. Where is Hongo located?

SK: That's a little north of Hiroshima. If you go by cab, it's about forty-five minutes north.

RP: Is it a small village?

SK: It's a small village, but their property extended as far as the eye could see. Because he was given all the land that you could see from the top of the hill where his home was. But when MacArthur came in after the war, he made sure that all the landlords were cut down to size, more cut down to size. But he kept a lot of property. They allowed so much, so many miles of property. So my uncle stayed, went back, right before the war. My uncle and my dad came to Japan together, from Japan, immigrated to Seattle at the same time.

RP: Oh, okay. What was your uncle's name?

SK: Gee, I forgot... Hirotoshi, I think it was. But that's his son's name, too. And he went back because he was kind of disappointed in coming to the U.S. So he went back to Japan, but my dad stayed. And then later on, of course, he got a "picture wife." He got a "picture wife," like most of the men did, about five years later. He went back to Japan and got her and came back again.

RP: Does your, do any of your relatives still own land in that Hongo area?

SK: Yes, they still do. In fact, my father, in the later years, went back to Japan and he asked me did I want to have the property. 'Cause I'm the oldest of his sons, his family. And I said, no, I don't think I would because I don't want to move myself back to there, Japan, place I don't even know too well. And he said, "Okay, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'll give the property to my uncle," who suffered through the war and was heavily in debt, too. Taxes were eating him up. And so I said, "No, I don't think I want to do that." So he went back with my mother, and they had a big meeting, rowdy meeting, I heard, from my mother. My dad wanted to do it, but my uncle didn't. He didn't want to split up the property to all the other relatives. That was a condition, my father wouldn't give him the land, but he balked at that, because evidently my uncle was treated very badly by the other relatives when he went back and the war started. They called him a spy, coming back to Japan. And so he remembered that vividly (...). I guess they really treated him badly. Consequently, he didn't want to share it with anybody, any one of those that were bad to him. So, but it ended up okay. My father yelled and screamed, too. He was a pretty hot-tempered guy anyway.

RP: Who screamed the loudest.

SK: Yeah, yeah. He was a mean guy if he wanted to be. [Laughs]

RP: Your dad?

SK: So it came out alright.

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