Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: George Kikuta Interview
Narrator: George Kikuta
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: July 18, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-kgeorge_2-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. And this morning we're talking with George Kikuta. And our interview's taking place at the Pacific Commerce Bank at the corner of Olympic and Sawtelle Boulevards in west Los Angeles. The date of the interview is July 18, 2008. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin, and our videographer is Kirk Peterson. Our interview will be archived in the Manzanar site library. And George, do I have your permission to go ahead and do our interview?

GK: Yes.

RP: Thank you very much for taking some time today and sharing your family and personal stories during World War II and beyond. George, your date of birth and where you were born?

GK: March 3, 1942, and I was born in Boyle Heights area in Los Angeles.

RP: Can you give us your full name at birth?

GK: George Masayuki Kikuta.

RP: Kikuta?

GK: Yes.

RP: Do you have any insights into the meaning of your Japanese names?

GK: Many of... my father's name is Masaichi, so I'm sure he gave me one of, you know, the kanji "masa," and all of my brothers have "yuki" at the end. The oldest brother has Hatsuyuki, Masayuki, myself, and Yoshiyuki. So that's the family tradition.

RP: And let's just mention your siblings right now. Can you give us your siblings in order of birth?

GK: Yes. My oldest brother is three years older than myself, so he is sixty-nine years old right now. I'm sixty-six myself.

RP: And his name again?

GK: Katsuyuki. Henry Katsuyuki Kikuta.

RP: And you, and then...

GK: And my one year younger brother is Bruce Yoshiyuki Kikuta. And the youngest one passed away about three years ago, he doesn't have an English name, Masaru Kikuta.

RP: Give us a little bit of your family background in Japan, what you know of it.

GK: In Japan?

RP: Right.

GK: Our family returned or went back to Japan from Manzanar, Tule Lake, and went to Fukushima, outside of Fukushima city in Fukushima prefecture. And we had a family farm, and our grandmother was living there alone. So we joined, after the war, we joined her and that farmland. It's a fairly large house. So my uncle's family also joined us, and we lived there for a while. And my uncle's family came, came back in, I would say, early '50s. And we, our family came back to Los Angeles in 1959.

RP: Your father and mother were born in Hawaii?

GK: Uh-huh, right. I think Fukushima prefecture, the people, the governor of Fukushima, I guess, picked not necessarily to permanently send the people to overseas. I think, I think the intention was to temporarily go out and maybe earn some money and come back. So both my father's parents and my mother's side parents, they went to Hawaii and Maui, and I think in more of a sugar cane farm. And they made some money and came back, went back to Japan and built a nice house.

RP: Your father's family, how many other siblings did you have?

GK: My father's side including my father is seven, seven siblings. But the older siblings, two of 'em, I think, stayed in Hawaii. And the younger ones were brought back with the parents to Fukushima.

RP: Do you know how long, how long your grandparents stayed in Hawaii?

GK: I have no idea. I have no idea.

RP: Or when they went over to Hawaii?

GK: I think older ones were born in Japan and brought over to Hawaii. But the younger, like my father, and the younger ones were born in Hawaii. That's why they have citizenship, U.S. citizenship. So they must have stayed somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years, over ten years.

RP: How many of them were born in Hawaii besides your father?

GK: I would say, I would say about five or six. I'm not exactly sure, but five or six out of seven.

RP: Now, did your, first of all, your father's name again?

GK: Richard Masaichi.

RP: And did your father meet your mother in Hawaii? What was the arrangement there?

GK: No. When -- this is interesting. My mother is a "picture bride." The arrangement was made among the parents in Fukushima, and they exchanged pictures. By then, my father was here in Los Angeles, and my mother was in, still in Japan. So once my father accepted good-looking lady's picture, she was sent by herself over to Los Angeles.

RP: And so your, your grandparents on your father's side were landowners in Fukushima?

GK: Right.

RP: Do you know how much their holdings, there was a farm there, you said?

GK: Basically it's rice farming, and it's not a huge, I don't know how many acres, but I don't... four or five acres maybe.

RP: Pretty large farm in Japan.

GK: Yeah, enough to support the family plus sell excess to, to the market.

RP: And roughly, when did your father come over to the United States? How old was he?

GK: My father? He was, he was in early twenties. Twenty, twenty-one. So he was a young man.

RP: He wasn't the oldest son in the family, was he?

GK: He's fourth.

RP: Oh, fourth. So he didn't really stand to inherit anything.

GK: No, but he's the second boy, but he inherited the family farm. Yeah, because oldest one, oldest uncle, was somehow adopted into his wife's family, yes. So that made my father the oldest.

RP: The oldest.

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