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_2-01-0005

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RP: Tell us about how difficult it was to come from America, and you're like three or four years old, you're in Japan. And first of all, the country's devastated, and one of the key issues was food.

GK: Right.

RP: So tell us about the first, what you can recall about getting reestablished in Japan after a devastating war.

GK: You know, our memory is, when we went back to Japan, me and my brothers, we were so hungry and they didn't provide enough food for us. But according to my mother, it was just only a short period because we had to farm. But I remember me and my brother was looking at the cat's food plate sitting next to the front door. We wanted to steal some of that food, you know, was so hungry. And that memory still stays with us. But like my mother said, only six months or so, food was scarce. But next harvest season we had plenty to feed everybody.

RP: Some folks we've talked to who took a similar route as your family did from Tule Lake back to Japan said they ended up eating some very strange things to kind of satisfy their hunger they wouldn't normally eat.

GK: Right, uh-huh. Yeah, people said that sweet potatoes leaves and that type are typical staples for a while. But truly, I think, I personally don't remember exactly. But I still feel we were always hungry back then.

RP: And where did you, where did you start grammar school? In your village area?

GK: Yes. We have a village school that entrance, the first day of school, all the students have seat assignments and the name tags, and the names on your own desk and everything except myself, because I was U.S.-born and a non-Japanese citizen. So I was the exception. So I kind of stood out like a sore thumb, and I was treated like a foreigner, immigrant, back in Japan.

RP: Felt even more different.

GK: Right. But I guess that was just the typical kids' stuff that kids wanted to tease somebody different.

RP: Can you explain to me why you did not get dual citizenship?

GK: Yes.

RP: Can you tell us about that?

GK: By the time I was born, consul general of Japan here was already gone, you know, war had started. So my older brother had dual citizenship, but myself and my younger brother were not able to register as a Japanese citizen. And so we only kept U.S. citizenship.

RP: And how were you... you said that it was kind of awkward the first day of school. How were you treated by your classmates in the first few months of school? You mentioned something about they were very suspicious of you, an American spy or...

GK: They, they treated... not treated, but they called me an American spy and tried to segregate me and my brothers because we were from the United States. But we, we used to get the American foods and chocolates, gum, and that type was shipped from U.S., and my relatives, I think, tried to help us. We distributed that among our neighbors, and that really made us look really good. [Laughs]

RP: Oh, that was your, the relatives who had stayed here.

GK: Yes, those who stayed here keep sending us on a monthly... but we're lucky if we get half of it delivered to us, because the package was kind of repacked and some, where we moved. Everybody was hungry back then.

RP: Right. Everybody was taking their share.

GK: Right.

RP: So you developed some better relationships through chocolate and sweets and things like that. That's the way to reach kids. George, do you have any, sort of, visual images that you saw as you were traveling back to Fukushima of some of the devastation?

GK: Yes. From, we landed at the Yokosuka, it's a port city south of, nearby Tokyo. And we went by the Tokyo area, and it's, I still remember my parents were showing us part of Tokyo, there's just nothing there. It's all burned down. And no high rise building that I could, you know, that I could see, it's nothing. So it's pretty, pretty bad scene.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.