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

<Begin Segment 1>

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.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Let's talk a little bit about your dad. Can you give us his name?

JN: My father was Jinjiro Nishimura. He was born in 1893, as we try to ascertain his, from his documents. He came when he was fourteen to this country. It's strange how he came, it's really another story that you might not wish me to relate right now, but, well, maybe I should relate it. He was the oldest of three children in Japan, in Shiga-ken, Japan. And my father was not a farmer, it was an agricultural community, we've been back several times, my wife and I. And I say "back," I mean, we visited Japan several times. And they were not farmers but they were like the millers of the community, they took in the rice, and whatever they did with it. And he went into debt, however a merchant can go into debt. And he lost not only his business, his house, everything. As the owner of his house and in the tradition of the Japanese, I believe, to lose a house is tragic because he had nothing to give to my father, his first-born son. So he came to this country before the turn of the century, as many did, I'm sure (to) make money here and go home and reclaim what he had lost. Never happened. He was here about six or seven years as I understand, when my grandmother told my father, age fourteen, who they corresponded with of course, because my grandfather apparently sent money back to the house to his wife and the family that survived for their sustenance. But anyway, my grandmother told my father to (go) and tell him to come home, which he did. [Laughs] And he found him here.

RP: Your grandfather settled here in a farming situation?

JN: No, it's fascinating, you know, it's almost, when I start reading history of the Japanese Americans or the Issei, it's almost sinister. They... I found that the employer, the employment in this country, not, wasn't as harsh as I'm sure it was in Hawaii, but the mining industry and the forest industry hired huge numbers of Japanese Isseis and they went to labor markets... what do you call these? Labor brokers, if you will, and they contracted for three hundred or a thousand men to come to work for their ranch. And they came here, and they lived in camps-like, I mean, they had their housing, and I can't imagine what they must have lived on, the conditions they lived under, but it wasn't, I'm sure it must have been very harsh. But anyway, the company also had what we would call today, the company store. And my father has told me, as he was explaining to us, that my grandfather was like a bookkeeper. And he kept track of all the monies that these workers owed the company that ran these stores or whatever. [Laughs] And I'm sure it must have been tragic. There must be stories about it -- that must be another story of immigration, and I'm sure it's not unique to the Japanese immigration, it must be all ethnic groups was really exploited by whoever brought them here. But that was my grandfather's project here.

RP: Your father came to the United States, your grandfather returned to Japan.

JN: Yes.

RP: And what did your father, did he settle in the Washington, Seattle area?

JN: Yes, he had a fascinating experience. He was fourteen as I said. That brings on... we're Protestants, we're Anglicans, and I often wonder why would my father become an Anglican. And there should be a great story behind that as to why Japanese who have a religion of their own, and a very established and formalized religion, and something that's been there for centuries, why they would convert to Christianity. And I thought in my father's case, as was probably true with many other Isseis, it was probably because it made economic sense to be able to learn the language. I bet he understood that there was a correlation between his ability to speak English and get good employment, other than hacking away at a tree or digging in the coal mines or wherever these people were. And he probably thought working with a family was a way to (...) learn English. And he worked as a domestic, as a houseboy, as I understand. And he was taken in by this family, and he became Christian amongst other things. And my father, as I understand -- well, we have pictures to document some of the things that he led as a young man. I mean, he didn't get married until he was thirty-five or thirty-six. So he lived all those years as a gay bachelor in Seattle. [Laughs] He played a saxophone, he played in a band, a marching band. I mean, it was, it's an incredible story. He also went to school, Broadway High School, so he got some sort of English education. He could read and write the language and of course he was fourteen so I'm sure he was able to learn very, relatively simply. But anyway, that's my dad's side of the story. And I wish I had interviewed him more, as you are, as you are doing me.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: How about your mother? Can you give us her name?

JN: My mother's name was, my mother's maiden name was Murata, Yoso Murata. And she married a Kitagawa, I don't know his, other than his name, who was the father of my older brother and sister. And they married in Japan -- oh, excuse me, they did not marry in Japan, they married in Seattle. I don't really know whether she was a "picture bride" or what, but anyways, they married in Seattle and the two children were born. He was a carpenter as I understood, and he died of tuberculosis, which (was) a prevalent ailment among immigrant families. And especially amongst Japanese. (...) My parents would always talk about, "Oh yes, that family has TB." [Laughs] But anyway, he died, my mother took the two children back to Japan immediately and deposited them with (her) oldest brother, who was now the head of the family, of her family. My older brother was, I think, seven, six or seven and (his) younger sister was like three, very young. And God bless my mother, she was independent as (were) most immigrant peoples. She could not stand the life in Japan, she left the children there and came on her own back to Seattle, on her own. Incredible. There, in Seattle there were many members of the same community from where they came Shiga-ken, and they had these associations, I'm sure. My father said that he knew of my mother's older brother who always used to taunt him and beat him up. But anyway, they met and they married in 1929, and I was their first-born. That was my mother. My mother was a housewife, she did not have any, you know, it was tragic, she had no knowledge of English other than, well, she had some knowledge of English just through osmosis I guess. But she did not have the education that my father had in Japanese or in English. She went through, I think, the sixth grade, or something, she was telling us.

RP: What childhood memories do you have of your mom?

JN: My mother was a dear soul. Let me tell you, the greatest memories I have of my mother -- because my father was out of my life working during the Depression, away from home for so long -- (were the stories) she read to us. There was a book called, it was a monthly magazine that came, Yonen Kurabu, I remember the name, it's crazy as heck that I can remember some of these trivial things. And we would wait for that document to come. Of course, Japanese was my first language, and she would read and they were always these classic stories, like Stevenson's stories. I mean, all the classic stories that I know of, Grimm's Fairy Tales, was written in, (were) published in that book and my mother read it to us in Japanese. And we would, I remember sitting on her lap, me and my brother, and she would read to us these stories. And that was, that's one of my fascinating recalls of my mother. She was indeed a superb -- you know, there's a great book about immigrants, about the Norwegians immigrants, Giants of the Earth, you might remember, and she indeed was a giant. As I speak of her, tears come flowing readily. And I'm not ashamed to talk about my mother. She was a great, great person, yeah.

RP: You had a few other siblings after yourself.

JN: Yes, my younger sister, Mitsuko, Lily Mitsuko and Jessie Yaeko were born in '39 and '41. '41, right before evacuation.

RP: So your father was sending money to the family during the time he was working?

JN: Oh, yes. Well...

RP: That was your sole financial means of support?

JN: It was my father's income.

RP: Mom was busy raising the family.

JN: Yes, right.

RP: Did you have any other relatives in the area that helped?

JN: No. We had no relatives in the States or in Canada. Later we found out that my mother's brother came to, settled in Vancouver and I sought him out years later. I knew his name was Murata, and I called the Canadian Bell Telephone Company and I asked for all the Muratas in Toronto and I called each one of those people. They must have thought I was nuts. [Laughs] Because of the manner in which I introduced myself, I mean, you can imagine what I said to try to get them to understand without hanging up on me. And I did indeed find my, I guess he would be my cousin, yeah. (Narr. note: The Muratas were evacuated from Vancouver by the Canadian government during World War II and they relocated to Toronto.)

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: James, you spoke about your mother sharing stories with you in Japanese. Did you eventually attend Japanese language school?

JN: Yes, my brother and I, we both attended Japanese -- as did my older brother and sister in Seattle. Oh, well, they came back -- as soon as my father married my mother, my uncle, that is, my mother's older brother, sent the two children back immediately. And my father to this day, if he was alive, would say, "That son of a gun." [Laughs] But yes, we did attend koukou gakkou in Seattle.

RP: That was the large...

JN: Yeah, that was the large school near our church, St. Peter's. But anyway, I went through third grade, third book, which is three years, and I think George, my younger brother, who was a year younger than I, went to book two.

RP: For many young Nisei kids it was an opportunity to socialize and develop relationships with other kids in the community. Was that the case for you?

JN: Well, not really. We just had to go to school. It was just the norm to, after going to English, regular school, an hour and a half later, we went to Japanese school. And we stayed from, I don't know, 4:00 to 5:00, it was only an hour, and as I said, it was my first language. I was able to recall, remember the phonetic alphabet, and I corresponded years later, when I got married, with my mother in the phonetic alphabet. And I didn't realize what it meant to her to get a letter from me. As my father said... [cries]. Excuse me, I wish you could tape these things, cut these scenes out. But anyway, that was my life at home before the war.

RP: Where did you go to elementary school in Seattle?

JN: I went to, well, we first went to Washington School and then I don't know what happened, they consolidated school districts or whatever, and I went to Bailey Gatzert which is where many, many Japanese American children went.

RP: Do you have any remembrances of your grammar school experiences, or, particularly teachers?

JN: Oh yes, I recall, I recall every one of my grade school teachers by name. They were all great influences in my life. From grade school, it's incredible. I remember especially Miss Phelan, who was a music teacher, and I played the violin, which is a misnomer, but I took violin lessons. And there was another fellow, Ray Taniguchi, who I knew from second grade, and he and I decided we would give a concert to our classmates. [Laughs] But it endeared us to Miss Phelan forever, and I... yeah, that was, Bailey Gatzert was, I would say, 90 percent Japanese Americans or Chinese Americans. It was really the first time we had so many, many Japanese American friends. Not that I even knew they were Japanese, I mean, I didn't relate to them ethnically, you know, they were just other kids. But yeah, that was a great school.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: What were some of the other activities that you got involved with growing up? What did you do for fun?

JN: Where, in Seattle?

RP: In Seattle, yeah.

JN: Well, I... oh, we had a cherry tree and two pear trees and an apple tree in the backyard. And I remember we would have ropes and we were like monkeys, we could swing from tree to tree. Crazy things like that I can recall. I remember playing marbles and we would play keeps and how these kids would keep us playing because we were winning, you know. And the older kids, non-Japanese, incidentally. Yeah, life, life was pretty fun in Seattle. But it was disciplined, my mother was, somehow she kept us in line.

RP: Have any experiences going fishing or swimming?

JN: Oh yeah, I remember Ray Taniguchi and I, there was a place called Smith Cove, I think that's, all the sewage in Seattle ran into Smith Cove in the Puget Sound and the fish abound. You could go down there and you could fish for shiners, we called them. And you could virtually almost hook 'em without bait and you just pull them up. We used to bring a box, I like to call it an apple box but apple boxes were made of wood, but this was cardboard. And we would fill that damn near, almost half with fish that we'd catch. We would just peer over the piers. Well, anyway, and then we would take it to the fish market and sell it. And they would give us maybe a quarter for a half box of fish. Ray and I would go to a place called Coney Island, it was a chili parlor. It was watered-down chili, but it was delicious. [Laughs] We would spend our ten cents, and it was ten cents for a bowl of chili. I remember doing things like that. We used to play baseball using the sewer caps. There was an intersection, and at the intersection there was four sewer caps. We would use that as first, second, and third base. And I remember, in Seattle, we lived on East Fir Street, which is a series of hills. And during the winter, we would be able to, I don't know how, God was with us, that we would slide on a sled from the top of Eighteenth Street all the way down to Fifteenth Street crossing the cross streets with no traffic. I mean, without any cars, nobody to stop traffic if there was traffic. [Laughs] We used to do things like that. And I remember once we put my kid brother -- I shouldn't say this -- in a wheel, in an old tire and rolled him down the hill. [Laughs] He didn't get far, fortunately. But we did some bad things too, I guess.

RP: A few of the gentlemen we interviewed yesterday and today talked about a sports league called the Courier League. Maybe you were a little too young for that.

JN: No, I was way, way too young. No, I don't recall any of that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Now, was your, was your residence in the area of Seattle known as Japantown?

JN: No, it wasn't. If I recall, it was a large Jewish community. We had about five synagogues, incredibly. In Seattle I don't know if they had a large Jewish community, but if there (were) Jews in Seattle, they all lived where we lived. And I recall during the Sabbath, that is Friday, the caretaker or whatever he was called, he would give us a penny to light the fires, light the furnace, for instance. I mean, that was quite an enterprise, I mean, to be able to get three or four of the five synagogues to give us a penny each to light their fire.

RP: You said you had Chinese kids in your elementary school?

JN: At Bailey Gatzert, well, Bailey Gatzert was like twelve blocks from where I lived. And we walked to it every day, so Bailey Gatzert was not in, anywhere near the so-called local school that Washington School was. They had consolidated school districts and we were moved. We were, Washington School became a junior high school and Bailey Gatzert was our closest elementary school that we attended. And that's where the Chinese, there (were) Chinese American kids that, communities, you know, I don't really know if there (were)Chinese American communities as such, but there must have been a place where Chinese American families lived.

RP: Do you remember trips, visits to the Japantown area for special, to go to a restaurant or a special occasion?

JN: You know, my father was a restaurateur. He had a restaurant on Sixth Avenue and King Street, which is in that section. It was probably the ghettos of Seattle at the time, but they now call it the International District and I remember going there as a treat to have dinner or food served. All it was, a counter with stools, and he had two seats, or I can't remember definitely. I've been back there, but it was closed up or it was not, no more, no longer a restaurant. But it was, I do remember going to places like that. And then when we went to sell the fish that we caught, there was a company called King Fish Company, and I remember going there. You know, when I think back about a quarter for a whole box, almost a box of fish, crazy. Exploited, even by our own people. [Laughs]

RP: Your father's restaurant was a Japanese restaurant?

JN: No.

RP: What was it?

JN: It was a regular hash house.

RP: Hash house.

JN: Yeah, oh yeah, and then the weekends I helped him write the menu out in longhand. I remember things I had never tasted before, ham hocks and black-eyed peas. [Laughs] And he was quite innovative. He sold meal tickets. Can you imagine? He would sell meal tickets for... I don't know whether it was two dollars or a dollar and a half or whatever, and it had denominations of five and ten cents, and one cents. And as people, and you could buy a meal for like a quarter. Stew for instance, and he would sell that, sell the meal tickets. I thought, my god, he was way ahead of his time. He took, made money on the float. [Laughs]

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Do you remember any visits to any of the bathhouses in Japantown?

JN: No.

RP: That wasn't a ritual of your family.

JN: No, it never was. Our social life revolved around the church, St. Peter's church. My mother became a very ardent churchgoer, and indeed, our next-door neighbor was Gennosuke Shoji, the Shoji family. Father Shoji was the founder, was the original priest of St. Peter's. And I hope one of these days, the church, the significance of the church in the lives of Isseis and Niseis in the Japanese American community, that's gotta be a story that's gotta be told, I think, because they played a dominant role, at least in Seattle, in my opinion. There were many, many Christian churches.

RP: Were you involved in some of the Japanese martial arts like judo or kendo?

JN: No, I wasn't, but I was, St. Peter's had a Boy Scout troop, and my older brother was a bugler, and they won awards in the parades, the municipal parades. The Troop 51 Drum and Bugle Corps, and it was a proud moment to see them marching down the streets of Seattle on, I think it was Fourth of July. But I was a good scout, I just became -- you know, I was really not quite of age, but I remember going to scout meetings and going to Mercer Island for overnight trips, and going on, being taken on snipe hunts. I don't know if kids today, if scouts today do things like that, but, yeah, they were happy memories. Yeah, to be a member of the scouts.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: We were talking earlier about after Pearl Harbor and the evacuation, and how you were conscious of the trauma that occurred with your dad having to give up his restaurant. Can you talk a little bit about, first of all, Pearl Harbor, the bombing of Pearl Harbor? I know you were young but you might have a memory of that day.

JN: It was a Sunday, I remember, and we all congregated at a guy named Yutaka Onodera's (house). Incidentally, the Onodera family were members of our church and they sent three sons into the 442nd, into the service, one died. And we were at Yutaka's house and the F-O-X, the Fox Patrol was our patrol and he was our patrol leader, and we had these little crystal sets and we heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed. I didn't know where Pearl Harbor was, but you (knew) it was obviously one of our possessions. I remember running home, I don't know why, maybe we just went home. It was somewhat a sad day, because the atmosphere was, the Seattle newspapers had extras almost immediately seemingly on the streets. Yeah, Pearl Harbor was not that traumatic to me.


JN: But Pearl Harbor, as I was saying, was not too traumatic. I mean, we knew it was a horror, well, the news, if you might recall... you wouldn't recall, you're much too young. But the war in Europe, there was always news about the war in Europe. And indeed, the Pacific where the Japanese were running all over the Southeast, Southeast Asia, and Pearl Harbor was not that traumatic. We thought it was just another possession and then we realized it was indeed part of our country, not that it was a state at the time. I... we were very patriotic. Not patriotic in that sense of being patriots because of the war, we were just patriotic. I mean, we pledged allegiance to the flag without knowing why we did that, we sang the national anthem. And I think... well, I don't know what to think about what I thought about Pearl Harbor when you ask like that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JN: Oh, of course later, when we found out that there was going to be an evacuation, I was in, by this time I was twelve years old, and my mother was in the hospital with her kidney removal operation. My father had to dispose of his restaurant. I had a bike, a Schwinn bike, a beautiful bike, that I had to dispose of. And then I was the oldest child, of course, and I did a lot of things for my father. I remember going to a place like Penney's store to buy sea bags for the family, for each member of the family, and to write down the name, our names on the sea bags, in whatever, black paint, and putting our family number on each one of those things. I remember that when people came to knock on our door, our whole house -- not that we had furniture, but we had a full house, and there was furniture in each room, and to see that it was sold for fifteen bucks, fifteen dollars, it was tragic. I got five dollars for my bike, in comparison. And my father had to give away his business, his restaurant. Well, anyway, he was compensated, I think, for up to $1500 later by the WRA or the War Relocation Authority after we relocated to Philadelphia. But I remember the compensation was unjust.

RP: A lot of things were happening at that time like you said your mom was, was ill.

JN: Oh, yeah.

RP: And you mentioned that she stayed behind when you were evacuated to Puyallup?

JN: Right.

RP: Can you talk a little bit about that?

JN: Well, we went to Puyallup in busses and that was almost festive to a twelve year old. We got on a bus, we go to this camp, we get into a... we did not live in some of the stables that other friends, later I found out, had to live in. But we lived in real shacks. That's all I can describe it. I mean, we had chicken shacks that were better constructed. And I remember when we first got there, we had to fill up bags with straw which was our mattress. And there was two blankets for each, either one or two blankets, big army khaki blankets for each cot. And the cots were not metal cots. They were the kind that folded out, although maybe my father had a metal cot later for his bed. And then of course we had a little child. My youngest sister was not even one years old at the time. Yeah, my father must have really had a rough time taking care of the -- but fortunately, that whole community came to him.

Indeed, one of the people that I see at all our reunions, the Kaseguma family, they were my father's dear friends from way before he was married. Indeed, not only that, Mr. and Mrs. Kaseguma were my godparents, but the children are my contemporaries. Yasuko, the youngest, was my, one year younger than me. She wrote to me later about writing her master's paper on her experience in camp and also taking care of the Nishimura baby, she and her sister, Masako. So, indeed, there were many, many people like Masako and Yasuko that came to my father's aid as the male (single) parent of a young infant child. I'm sure that must have been a great help to my father.

And of course in assembly camp, I mean, there was nothing to do. I remember selling papers. I don't know how I got the papers, the Seattle Times, the Post-Intelligencer, we got it, bought it for two cents, and we sold them for a penny -- three cents. And I probably made more money than all the guys that worked for the War Relocation, WCCA, I think it was called or something like that. But camp was not a... the assembly center was really nothing, I was just... oh, although we had some fun. It was in the Puyallup Fairgrounds and there was a fun house, and I remember going into that thing. We (all knew) it was prohibited, of course, but we would somehow get in there. And there was this huge barrel that you'd walk into, the dang thing would be rolling around, and we had crazy things like that to play with. And I remember spending hours in that -- well, not hours at a time -- but many, many times going back there and spinning in that thing. [Laughs]

RP: Folks described that there was some type of a roller coaster, too, there?

JN: Well, we weren't privy to, it was never operating of course. Yeah, there was a roller coaster on the periphery of the fairgrounds.

RP: Kind of an ironic contrast to the circumstances.

JN: Oh, crazy. Crazy, crazy. And I remember Mrs. Peppers, Margaret Peppers was a deacon of our church. And she was Caucasian, and she was not in camp, but she would come to the camp to see us and tell us about my mother, because she would minister to my mother. I remember meeting her at the, she would not be permitted inside. So there was no chain link fence as (...) in the more permanent Minidoka camp, but it was a wire fence. I remember her telling us -- and I don't know whether it was legal -- but she passed over candy or whatever it was for us. Those are cuckoo things to remember, and I remember that kind of kindness. I mean, because it was, it was a kind act.

RP: So what hospital was your mother at?

JN: My mother was in the Seattle Municipal Hospital. What is that called, it's on Yesler Street... Harborview. Harborview Hospital.

RP: And that's where all the people that couldn't make the trip to Puyallup were kept?

JN: I think she was the only internee that was in that hospital -- of Japanese descent (during) evacuation.

RP: She joined you in Minidoka?

JN: In Minidoka much later.

RP: How much later?

JN: Well, I think she (came) three months after we went into Minidoka. I may be completely wrong, maybe it might have been two months, but it was some time after the fact, which was just as well because Minidoka took many, many weeks before it was really habitable. I mean, I'm sure other people may have told you about some of the conditions we found. The camp was not completely built. Our block, well, even if it was built, there was a lot lacking. For instance, there was no walks. I remember stealing, I guess is the word, going over the fence on the other side where the contractors left their scrap lumber, and dragging lumber back to make little tables and things in our stark, very stark rooms that were issued to us. Or most of the older people, they made sidewalks on which to walk to the mess hall and to the community block laundry room and the bathrooms. And, well, anyway...

RP: What was it like to see your mom again after...

JN: Oh, it was such a joy to see her. Yeah, she was just, I know, very happy to see us. I mean, medicine back then was not like it is today. A kidney operation must have been a major, major surgery, procedure.

RP: I imagine your dad was real happy to see her.

JN: Oh, I'm sure he was. He was relieved more than happy. [Laughs]

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: What block did you live in, James?

JN: Well, we lived in Block 8, and before... and then we moved to Block 4. My father was a cook and he was, as I understand it, a well-respected cook. And Block 4 happened to be the professional peoples; that's where all the doctors lived. And when my mother came back -- I guess we lived in Block 8 for about, a little over a year -- he was able to go to work, so they wanted a chief cook at Block 4. So he took the job, and he became... so we moved the family over, they moved us over.

RP: So how many of there were you in Minidoka? It was your family...

JN: Just my father's children (...). And my older brother was in the military, he was, he was a linguist, he was able to speak Japanese, write Japanese. Not that that was why he was drafted.

RP: That was the brother that went back?

JN: That's right, my stepbrother.

RP: Kibei.

JN: Right. Well, you wouldn't call him a Kibei but... or maybe you will. Yeah, I think you would, yes. And my sister, she married rather than go to camp with the family on her own. She married her husband, she was seventeen, much to the despair of my mother and father, I might add. You know, she was a young kid yet.

RP: Where did she go?

JN: They went to an assembly center. They lived in a place called Des Moines, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. They did not go to Puyallup, they went to a place in California someplace, Palmdale... I can't remember the name.

RP: Pinedale.

JN: Pinedale. And somehow they came to Minidoka for not even a year when the war effort asked them to farm. But that's another great story. I was trying to relate that the other day to you, but yeah, so it was only my, me, my brother, younger brother, George, Mitsuko and Yaeko, my younger sisters, and my parents and myself. Six of us in Minidoka.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: One of the things that you experienced was the fact that you said that you were able to go out of camp and spend a school semester in a little town called Eden.

JN: Yes, yes, you remember well.

RP: Tell us about that.

JN: Well, this is when I was thirteen. Well, I don't know when it was. There was a shortage of people in the war effort, in the factories in the East, Chicago and wherever. (Narr. note: Eden, Idaho, was a farming community, population 415, in 1940. It was located about 8 miles from Minidoka.) And even the farms around Minidoka had need for help. And my older (brother-in-law) and sister by this time were in Minidoka and they volunteered to go work. And they stayed close to the camp because my parents were there, (...) they found employment with a guy named Carl Stivers, on the Stiver farm in Eden, and they worked there. He went there as an irrigator, the rich farmlands of Idaho were dependent completely on irrigation and they had huge water systems that provided water for the crops, and he was an irrigator. Fascinating life, incidentally, with a horse and a shovel, very romantic. I mean, when you think back it was probably a crazy job. [Laughs] But after about a year... I don't know when it was, how long, I was thirteen, and I went to live with them for one winter, one year really, and I went to school in Eden High School. Somehow we were, I skipped eighth grade, so we became... no, I was in high school in camp for one year, my freshman year, my ninth grade, and then my second year I went to Eden and great time. I was just going into puberty, all of a sudden girls were a whole new breed of cat. I learned how to dance, and all my little friends in camp when I came back a year later, they were nothing. [Laughs] And I was the big, sophisticated dude, if you will. But Eden was a great experience. But more than that, from a sociological point of view, the contrast of living outside of camp was a big thing for me. My brother gave me, my brother-in-law gave me a dollar a week allowance, and for that buck, I mean, I didn't get it for nothin'. [Laughs]

RP: What did you have to do?

JN: Oh, I weeded the vegetables, we had a family plot. I mean, when I say a family plot, it wasn't two by four, I mean, it was a half-acre maybe. And my sister was a great canner. She would, we would make peas and beans and whatever. She would can it and she would store it in their cellar. We had vegetables, a great life. I wish we had some of that today. But anyway, that's what I did for my buck. And to treat a gal for an ice cream soda was -- to treat a gal for a coke was just norm. Five cents for a coke. But to treat a gal for an ice cream sundae, which was fifteen cents, and you buy two of those things, that's thirty cents, that's thirty percent of your allowance gone in one shot. That was trauma. [Laughs] But it was fun. Growing up like that was so different from what camp was for me. And, of course, I was growing up, too, I was going into a different stage of my life.

RP: Much more normal kind of teenage experience.

JN: Well, I don't know what's normal anymore, but it was sure as heck different. The question is, "What was significant?" Well, that experience outside of camp was very, very significant to me. Indeed, after about, oh, fifteen years ago, I took my two children back to Minidoka, back to, to Minidoka, but I went back for the first time and I saw the old block house there, and I saw the big plaque there, but more than that I went to see Herb Paul, a dear, a great friend of mine. He lived across the street, I say across a street, it was a hell of a street. I mean, down the street about a half-mile away from us, but he was my neighbor, (...) brother-in-law's neighbor. And he had what I thought was a palatial house as a child and we had a little shack. But we went back there to see Herb. I knew his house, and this little old lady comes out, and I'm sure she must have wondered, "What are these three Oriental kids doing (at) my house?" And I explained to her that I went to school with a guy named Herbert Paul back in the '40s, and she couldn't believe it. She yes, "Yes, that's my husband." And he's out in the field, this was a Sunday, but he was out in the field. She said, "He'll be back momentarily," in the meanwhile, she hauled us inside, gives the kids sodas, serves coffee and cookies, or whatever it was. And here comes Herb and he couldn't remember me. Now (...) I'm trying to explain to him -- we did many things. (...) My brother-in-law took us to the Snake River to fish, fish with a coffee can because we (didn't have) a reel. And Herb would take me duck hunting. We would go into the fields in the ditches and he had a double-barreled shotgun. The birds from Canada would flop down and bed for the night, and (when) he pulled both (barrels), the damn place, the skies would turn black as the birds... and we did this many times during the season. And we rode the bus to school every day. And we, like I say, we were great buddies, but he couldn't remember me. And I started to recall about Holly's, the coach that had the hardware shop, and the doc, we called him Doc, who served us fifteen cent sundaes. And all of a sudden, he... and some of the gals and boys that we knew. And he knew I was for real, that I was... and we had a pleasant reunion at the time and I still, he's probably, I'm sure he's still wondering who the hell I was that he was talking to, but anyway... what I'm trying to say is, to him that experience of my being in his life for that one year was just another event. But for me, it was so meaningful. So that experience in Eden was much, much in my heart, and inside of my brains today as a significant part of my growing up. It's really a, it was a good experience and I remember those teachers. The principal of our school became one of the administrators of our camp later. [Laughs]

RP: What was their name?

JN: You know, I can't remember the guy's name. I know he had a beard and a mustache. (Narr. note: I now recall his name was Gish.)

RP: What do you recall about the town of Eden?

JN: It was two blocks. If you blinked, you missed it. At one end there was Holly's hardware shop, he had everything, and the other end was Jack's supermarket. And then there was, the high school was in the center. And now, since then, they built at interstate so Eden was just a complete ghost town when my son and I, sons and I went back. I mean, there was nobody there. It was really sad to see that town like that, all the stores were shuttered.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Question about attending the high school. Were you involved and pretty active in school affairs, clubs, sports?

JN: Oh yeah. Well, I remember Coach Holly was, not only taught math and physics and everything else, but he was also our coach. And the school was so small, the town of Eden had 415 people population in the '40 census. We played what was known, called six-man football, we couldn't even field a team of eleven. And I remember he said, "Nishimura, you wanna suit up?" And I, my god, these great big behemoth guys, I said, "No." But I became the water boy. And I had a lot of fun being the water boy to answer your question about if I was in school participation, I went to all the dances. And I was not talented but because you see the people in camp making, doing things with crepe paper, decorating the mess halls and I would do that kind of thing. It was good for what little things we had in Eden, Idaho, to decorate. What else did we do? Well, anyway...

RP: And as far as being accepted by the students there? It sounds like a small school anyway.

JN: Oh, yeah. No problem. No problem. I mean, I went on a school date with this gal that was, like, 5'10" or something. I was like a little short...

RP: So there were no issues about that even, interracial dating?

JN: Well, if there was, I was oblivious to it. To answer your question, I don't think there was. I really don't think there was.

RP: You had an amazing experience.

JN: I think it was a great experience. It was, we were not bitter. My bitterness came later. Even, even after I, we relocated, I thought about evacuation a lot. And in Philadelphia, I don't know if you know Philadelphia, but I guess it's not too uncommon in eastern cities there's enclaves of ethnic communities. Like in Philadelphia there's an area called Fish Town. It was the poorest area of -- I think -- Philadelphia other than... well anyway, it was a poor area. And that's where the Polish American families lived. And they must have been there for three generations, or two generations at least. And there was an Italiantown in south Philadelphia which was mostly Italians, but there were well-kept homes in there and I got to know many. And there was Germantown where we lived (during) my married life for four years. And I used to think that evacuation was... oh, and then I went to Central High School, which was a city school for boys, it was a gifted school. I was very fortunate to be able to be accepted there. I went miles to the school, it took us an hour and ten minutes to get to the school, but anyway, I went there. It was 99 percent Jewish, the kids were mostly Jewish. I don't know why I'm bringing that up, but what I am trying to say is we had segregated communities within Philadelphia. And I know in Seattle there were segregated communities.

As a matter of fact, Father Kitagawa, Father Joe from my church who brought me out, who convinced my -- he was a great, he was a great theologian but he was as equally great a sociologist. And he convinced everybody that he was able to talk to, including my father, that we should all relocate eastward, away from the West Coast, away from the "ghettos," and away from whatever the heck was not to our benefit in our growth and the integration of -- he didn't use those words -- of the Japanese into the American mainstream. But more so he wanted us to come eastward to get educated out here and to assimilate out here. Well, I used to say that evacuation, you know, I'm always the optimist, and people, what few people knew about my evacuation, I would tell them, and then they'd say, "Oh, Jim, that's a horrible thing that happened to you guys." "Well," I say, "you know, there's good parts of it." It accelerated my, the Japanese community (...) becoming a part of the American mainstream by a whole generation by dispersing us into the whole country. Of course, that wasn't true because there are still huge population centers of Japanese. But they're not that bad off, I mean, they're not like the ghettos of Philadelphia that I remember. So from that point of view it was, it was a good thing.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Just to backtrack, when you came back to camp from your, your year in Eden, you felt like you were, kind of like the king of the hill.

JN: Oh absolutely.

RP: But what a change back into camp, what was that like for you after you've been sort of living a, sort of a charmed life?

JN: Well, let me explain what I... I went through a metamorphosis, if you will. I was a child and then I've become a, I went through puberty. And I remember all of a sudden I'm looking at girls. There was one girl, Lulu Toyoota, what a name. She was the sweetest lookin' gal I had ever laid eyes on, and she lived way at the other end of camp. We lived in Block 4 and she lived in, I don't know, Block 40 or someplace, and there was this big dance. I was able to dance because I learned how to dance in Eden. And I, and the kids that I remember that I sought after in retirement, (...) one of my great pastimes was to seek out people that I knew as a child. I came back from Philadelphia and found many kids here. But anyway, those kids (in camp) that I came back to (after Eden) are no more my friends because socially I'm beyond them. I mean, I (did not) want to play basketball and whatever the heck these kids still (did). I wanted to go see the girls and whatever. I don't know what happened to me. And I remember asking, there was this huge dance, the internees built this beautiful gymnasium in Minidoka, and they had this dance, and it was the social event of probably the whole four years of camp life. And some of my older friends said, "Jim, you gotta come." Heck, I couldn't even afford the fifty cents for a corsage, it was a, it was one of the gardenia corsages, it stunk and everything, but it was fifty cents. And they bought it for me, I remember. And I asked Lulu if she would go to the dance with me. And she says she'll have to ask her parents. "Your parents, you gotta ask your parents?" So she asked her parents and she tells me she can't go. She knows her parents, you know, they're too young to go to that kind of thing. Well, I took it upon myself to go all the way to seek her parents to ask, and the old man, oh, he hated me. [Laughs] And he said no, or whatever he said. So I went with another girl (who) was older than, older than me. But, I don't know what the question was, but... oh you asked me about what it was like (in camp) after I came back from Eden. So it was, it was not so much the environment of Eden that changed me, it was my, I just grew up (and became) a young man.


RP: James, we were just talking about, a little bit about life after Eden when you returned to camp. You were talking about some of the, the differences that you felt coming back in, you're grown up a little bit. How much longer did you spend in Minidoka before you relocated?

JN: I believe it was another school year. Well, not quite, because I became a junior in Philadelphia, so maybe it was less than that. As I said earlier, the minister of our church, Father Joseph, Mitsuo Kitagawa, convinced my father that I should come east and he brought me to Philadelphia.

RP: Oh, the reverend did?

JN: Yes, Reverend Kitagawa did.

RP: Was he also recruiting other people as well?

JN: Oh yeah, he, as I understood, I mean, I didn't know at the time, he had meetings with older members, older than me, people that used to meet at his house. He lived in Block 4. He got people to try to convince them that they should relocate eastward. But, no, Father Kitagawa, I'm sure he did not bring me specifically, well, maybe he did, I don't know. He brought me to Philadelphia from camp, from Jerome station. [Laughs]

RP: Speaking of him, how important was religious life in the camp for you and was it, was that a focus of your experience?

JN: No, it was just something that we had to go to, go to church every Sunday. Because it was, my mother was, as I said, was a very religious person. She was Buddhist, incidentally, before she was married. And after, because my father was Anglican, she became very much part of our church, baptized into the Christian church, into the Anglican church, and became a more... well, not, "fanatic" is not the word, but she became a very good churchgoer, more so than my father, I'm sure. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: How about, there were... you mentioned about dancing, going to dances or other activities. Did you ever ice skate out there, they had a little skating pond, or swimming holes?

JN: Yes, right, my father did buy us a pair of ice skates that my brother and I shared. Ice skating in camp was not a big thing. I mean, it was a huge pond. And if it was a smaller pond, I mean, reflecting back on the mechanics of ice, it would have been much better. But with all the wind that traversed the surface of that pond, it just became very bumpy. I don't know, I think... no, to answer your question, we did ice skate, but it was not like ice skating in Long Island, in the little ponds of Long Island.

RP: What about dealing with the extremes of temperature, coming from Seattle, kind of a mild area?

JN: Well, it was horrible. I mean, even as a child I remember. It was an experience to go to the bathroom or to go to the mess hall to eat, which was fun. But the weather, it was bad. You're always slopping in mud. I remember the older men, members of the community, they made wooden clogs, getas, and yeah, as a matter of fact, I had a pair but I didn't use them because you had to have, you wore 'em with bare feet and in the winter you couldn't use (them). The winds were just horrible when we first went there, I remember, even as a child. The barracks as you might see in some pictures were built above ground, they were not on slabs of concrete, above ground. And there was an opening of two feet at least from the ground to the floor, the bottom part of the flooring. And that was just a constant wind tunnel if you will. And then in the barrack itself there was only one plank, in other words, one 1x6 that separated you from the ground, and there (were) cracks in between. And the winds, I mean, the deserts of southern Idaho and the winds, during the spring for instance, or in the summer even, when we first moved there, that dust would come up and go and permeate every, everything within that room. We only had one room for the whole family. So I remember that, it was a constant, and then of course the men went and the lumber that we got from the other side of the fence was used to shore, to cover the opening between the ground and the first floor (...). Somehow, I don't know where they got the tarpaper and they covered (...) the lumber (siding) with tarpaper so that helped. But it was brutal. The dust was just as brutal as the cold. And the cold was bad, too. You either froze or you boiled to death. We had a big potbelly stove I see in some of the pictures, I'm active with the (...) Japanese American (National) Museum, and they have a lot of historical photographs. They show in some of the camps beautiful enameled stoves. Well, heck, I can remember nothing but a potbellied cast iron stove. And it was very efficient because there's nothing to dissipate, to slow down that heat. But it was hot for the first two feet or three feet away from it and the rest of the room was... now, I should not complain, it was adequate heat. I don't think I froze ever, but that was how it was heated.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: So in discussing your relocation, did the entire family leave as a unit for Philadelphia?

JN: No, I went with Father Kitagawa first and that was in, I think, in April or whatever it was. And the following September, my parents and the rest of the three children came.

RP: What was it like traveling out of camp to a place you had never been before, Philadelphia? At least you were with the reverend, you're not traveling alone.

JN: Oh no, yes, it was fun.

RP: Another adventure?

JN: Yeah, it was a good adventure. Went by train. We stopped, I remember, in Chicago where there was a large Japanese community from St. Peters, our church in Seattle. We were well-received there, and had dinners with the Taharas and the Ishibashis, and the Kaseguma family was there. Well, they were in Wisconsin, but I remember one of the daughters must have been there. So it was very festive if you will. Then we continued on to Philadelphia. And in Philadelphia I lived with the Tamura family -- well, it was the Collins family. Arthur Collins was a big industrialist, he was president of a steel company and he had former evacuees from Seattle, the Tamuras, man and wife and three kids living there at their house, helping as domestics, I guess. And the Collins' were good Episcopalians. They took in another Episcopalian waif... me. [Laughs] And I don't know what the arrangement was, isn't that terrible? We were sort of shuttled around, not being told what was happening, or if it was, I didn't think too much about it.

But another unbelievable event in my life happened. I always talk about events that change (one's) life dramatically. And one of the most dramatic changes in my life happened when I met the Cushmore family. They were Quakers that lived in Bucks County where the Collins' lived. The Collins' lived in Hatboro, Pennsylvania. And I hate to admit it, I was like fourteen, but I smoked. Can you imagine? That was a sophistication from Eden, Idaho. [Laughs]

RP: That's where you learned how to smoke.

JN: That's where I learned how to smoke. But anyway, I was walking to the grocery store from the Collins' house to get cigarettes, or whatever, I like to change the story and tell 'em that I was getting milk or something, and the story gets better, but I know it was cigarettes. And I'm walking back and this car stops and honks, and this lady says, "You want a ride?" I said, "Why not?" so I told her where I'm going. And I would never, of course, do such a thing today, or would I, I would caution my children and grandchildren, anybody, not to get into a stranger's... But I jumped in the car and she took me to the Collins' house. And the next day, Mrs. Cushmore, that was Mrs. Cushmore, calls up Mrs. Collins and they confirm with Mrs. Tamura that they want this little boy, this Japanese, this Oriental -- well, she knew I was Japanese by this time because I told her -- to come live with them down the street. This was in Southampton, Pennsylvania. And I obediently went down to Southampton to live with the Cushmores, and they were a Quaker family. And it was an unbelievable experience, they were just like, I became like a son. Indeed, I'm going to visit their daughter in a place called Etna, California, right after here, that's where we're going. And they became very much a part of my life, and they took me in as a family member. I swear, it's like a second family to me. And very influential. Well, anyway...

RP: Then your family...

JN: Oh, and then in September, my family came.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: And how long did you stay as a family in Philadelphia? Did you graduate high school?

JN: Yes, I graduated high school there, and went to college for a couple of years, got married.

RP: Did you return to Seattle?

JN: Oh, no. No, I stayed in Philadelphia. I went to work for an electronics firm. I became their... it was in cable television. They made cable television equipment. It wasn't that, meant to be that, but that's what it evolved into. And I became the head of the system design group, and we were very successful. A guy named of Milt Shapp who became governor of Pennsylvania, was the founder of this company. So I became, got involved in the cable systems and then, of course, not of course, then I was, that's, that's another experience. Milt (called me one day and said), "Jimmy, I want you to go into sales." And I thought, "Oh, gosh. I can't talk to a customer on the telephone, let alone..." "No, Jimmy, it's not like selling pots," he knew I was a Fuller Brush man. [Laughs]. So he says, "It's not like selling pots and pans," he says, "It's selling a very technical system and you know everything about it." And he's telling me that, "The whole world is going to seek you out as a valued employee." And I'm thinking, "My God, here's the president of the company, gonna fire me if I don't..." So I took the job, I became the number one salesman for the company, I swear to God, I'm not lying to you, I mean, I'm not exaggerating. And a couple years later, this huge French company sought me out like Milt said, they offered me an unbelievable, crazy salary. And I remember (asking) Larry Cushmore, I said, "What do I do, Larry? They gave me this letter and everything." He says, "Well, look, you just go to Milt and thank him for the years of (...) employment he gave you, kiss him goodbye, and take off." And that's what I did, and I ended up in New York. Then I was with the French company for five years, then I realized that the money was not in selling French products, it was in, my love was still in cable.

Then I saw some of the great things happening in my industry. The whole southeast part of the country was virgin country. There was not a cable system in the state of Georgia, for instance. So I started (into) cable (TV), I went after so-called franchises. You go to city government and you plead your case, and you say, "Look, I want to have a license to operate a cable system, or a franchise." And the South was very receptive to me. This is during the era of the civil rights movement, and that's another story, of course. But anyway, I convinced my wife that I should take our meager savings and let me get this out of my blood. The kids were not born yet. I should go to the South, get a franchise, then I'll start a, build a cable system, and I didn't know with what money or how, and then retire. And if I don't make it, if the money goes away, I told Susan, "Well, then I could always go to work for Bell Telephone, they always wanted me to come work for them." And then I'll work 'til I'm sixty-five and retire and we'll live happily ever after. So she says, "Go for it," and that's how I got into the cable business. I got a franchise in Savannah, Georgia, and started a cable system there. And then we lived in Long Island and in Huntington, which is another crazier story, they gave me the franchise there, and I was in the cable business.

Oh, in the meanwhile, to put food on the table, I went into the cable construction business. (It) was a whole new era (with new groups) of people coming into our industry. It was no longer a small business. Broadcasters, newspaper people were all coming into the business, and they're talking about huge cable companies, cities, not the little towns in Pennsylvania that were a distance away from the TV stations, or the intervening mountains that prevented television signals. No, these were huge cities that were being talked about for wiring. And I knew that was gonna be... and Savannah was going to be one of the test cases, we had three stations in Savannah. And historically it's not a cable television market. But, hell, I knew instinctively that there's programs out of Jacksonville... well anyway, I went in there not knowing really... I was no marketing genius. It became a successful thing. But in the meanwhile, it takes time, and all these big companies wanted to get into the business and I became not only their consultant, but I became their contractor to build systems. I built systems all over the country for about thirteen years. And that's, that was where I really made, you know, that was good money, but it was labor intensive, you see. So I was never a large contractor. But I had three or four jobs at a given time. And then the children came, and I said, "The heck with it, I don't want to travel no more," and I concentrated on Savannah and Huntington, Long Island. But anyway, that is the history of my later life. And at age fifty-six, I sold it all and I retired, and I've been retired for twenty-one years.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: And so where do you live now?

JN: I live in the same house in Long Island.

RP: In Long Island. Now, is there, are you active in the Japanese American community in New York?

JN: I am active. I am on the board of the Memorial Foundation in Washington, and also I'm on the Board of (Governors) of the Museum.

RP: The Japanese American National Museum?

JN: Yes, in Los Angeles, right. And I'm with the Memorial Foundation; I was on the executive committee. I resigned in June when I found out I had a heart murmur, which became a stenotic aortic valve (that I elected to replace). So I figured, well, at age seventy-seven, maybe I better hang it up. Although I'm still very, very wanting to get involved. But I travel a lot, for the last twenty-one years until Susan, my wife, died four years ago, we traveled all over the world, and it's been a good retirement for me.

RP: How long have you been involved with the Board of (Governors) on the Museum? Were you one of the first people?

JN: Oh, no. About ten years maybe. Nine years, ten years.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Just going back into the mid and late '80s, were you involved at all in the effort to obtain redress or an apology from the United States government for the camps?

JN: I followed it, no, I was not active in it. I was a member, I am still a member of JACL, but our chapter is in the city, and as crazy as it sounds, I'm only thirty-five miles away from the city, but it's like being, it's easier for me to go to Los Angeles than it is to go to the city. No, I'm exaggerating, but I don't, I'm not an active member of JACL. And they were indeed the front-runners for redress and whatever, in my opinion anyway. Although the group in Seattle was incredible in what they did. Those young kids, the young lawyers.

RP: Right, the lawyers. And did you have any thoughts about the day that you got the letter of apology and the payment, $20,000?

JN: Well, I told you earlier that I'm the ever-optimist, talk about the good things of evacuation, but it was about when I was twenty-three, twenty-four when I realized -- pardon the vernacular -- what a screwing we got. And it just, I couldn't believe what my government did. Indeed, I keep thinking right now, why does not the Japanese American community, that is the Niseis, the people that are, say, here at this convention, why don't they talk about it more? And I think it's because, in my case... let me tell you something. I thought it was embarrassing for me to tell you, a non-Japanese, about my experience, thinking that your government and mine would do something like that to a group. And I think that is, to some extent, why it's not more well-known. Now, conversely, let me tell you another good thing. I was just saying as we first started our session today, Ken Burns' War, unbelievable. I could not believe what that three-hour program did for the Japanese American community in the snippets that they used to show the evacuation portion of The War. Everybody that I know of in my little social group in Long Island knows about evacuation to this day, thanks to that guy. And we, really, and this media that you are using is going to be a great thing to promulgate the Minidoka camp, what went on there, and it's not, and there's nothing wrong with what I saw at (...) Manzanar last, last year, last summer, and it's incredible what happened there, what you did there. But it's so remote for anybody. It seems like it is not a destination point unless you're Japanese American and really interested in wanting to see Manzanar. It's a casual thing that people, "Hey, let's..." you go off the road for, what is that, 395, and go into the camp to see (the exhibit). But I think this (media, TV), might help tremendously, I hope.

RP: Since you were involved in the camp experience and also experienced 9/11 and the aftermath of 9/11 and backlash toward Muslims, did you feel like maybe the nightmare was starting again?

JN: I really did. I was so proud that the museum took a stand on the part of the Muslim community that was incarcerated -- not incarcerated, that's not, you know, we have a tendency of over, over exaggerating events with words, it was not that. It was, I think, I can't say a normal reaction, but it was a reaction that I think... well, it was normal. But I was so proud that the museum took its stand and immediately said to the Justice Department or whoever that it was wrong. Now, that was a proud moment for me anyway, or I'm sure for a lot of Japanese American people.

RP: James, if you have any other stories or comments that you'd like to share, otherwise we'll thank you very much and for your time here and the very special stories, very heartfelt.

JN: Yeah, well, thank you very much for permitting me to sound off. I've always wanted to write something about the younger people's point of view of evacuation. Indeed, I've got a couple pages written already, sort of abandoned that on the side.

RP: I'm sorry, I might add that at Manzanar, we're in the process of developing a book called The Children of Manzanar specifically from the perspective of kids and teenagers.

JN: There is indeed one author that I read about. I can't remember the name, I bought the book, maybe it was... oh, Topaz. Do you recall that book?

RP: Journey to Topaz?

JN: Yeah, yeah, right. But it wasn't, well, I can't remember what the content was even, but I wasn't too impressed is what I'm trying to say. [Laughs] Yeah.

RP: Well, maybe that's something you can, maybe you can expound on it.

JN: Well, you know, people just say, "Heck, it's at age seventy-seven, he can't do it." But let me tell you, it ain't gonna ever happen because we're not going to be around. And to get it third-hand is completely different. It's incredible what you're doing, really.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2007 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.