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

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RP: My name is Richard Potashin and we are at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the Minidoka reunion is being held today and yesterday. And right now we'll be interviewing James Nishimura. James is a former internee at the Puyallup Assembly Center and the Minidoka War Relocation Center where his family was sent from Seattle. The date of our interview is November 6th -- I'm sorry, November 7, 2007, and our videographer is Kirk Peterson. James, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, we really appreciate that.

JN: It's my pleasure, I'm sure.

RP: And I'd like to start our interview kind of at the very beginning. Tell us where you were born and what year.

JN: Well, I was born in Seattle, Washington, February 6, 1930. I was the first of my father's children. My mother's first husband had died and she had two other children, my older brother and sister, who my father raised as his. And, of course, like so many American families, I'm sure, the Depression was a tragic thing for everyone, economically, socially and everything. And my father, I remember, finally got a job as a cook on the private car of the Superintendent, I believe, of the Great Northern Railroad.

RP: Oh, is that so?

JN: And I remember as a child, we were able to, in our neighborhood anyway, go on vacations because the passes were free, but we had difficulty, I'm sure, putting food on the table. And then of course in '38 or so, my father was able to rejoin the family. He was gone for about four... oh, months at a time. And that was a happy day, of course, in '38, followed by my two sisters who (were) born, and then, of course, evacuation came upon us. My father was a restaurateur; he was a cook. And I can recall his restaurant in what is now International section of Seattle. It was a very thriving business, and it's really a shame that he lost that. And as a child, I mean, I was twelve years old at the time of the evacuation, and I recognized the trauma of his problem, I mean. And when you think back about the Isseis, you know everyone, all ethnic groups that immigrated here had difficulties, I'm sure, but they went through difficulties four and five times. First, the trauma of readjusting to a new country, then the Great Depression, then the evacuation, and then try to settle a new life relatively late in life, as we did in Philadelphia which was my home after we...

RP: After you came out of camp.

JN: Yes, after camp, we (went) to Philadelphia.

RP: If we can just backtrack a little, did you, were you given a Japanese name at birth?

JN: Oh, yes. My middle name is Yoshio, and my father was, you know, I really don't understand why they did that, but they gave us all Japanese names. Crazy as it sounds, I follow that to this day with my own children and I suggested, and my children followed it with their children. So my grandchildren all have Japanese names, even though they're not wholly Japanese. [Laughs] So I don't know if it's incongruous, but it was something that we just passed on.

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