Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Frank Isamu Kikuchi Interview
Narrator: Frank Isamu Kikuchi
Interviewer: John Allen
Date: November 6, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-kfrank_2-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

JA: What do you remember about December 7, 1941?

FK: On that day, I was, you can tell by my age I was about fifteen or so then, and I was going to high school already. And on that Sunday, this group that I was with had gone to see a basketball game, it's a local Japanese groups, Nisei Athletic Union kind of deal, and we went to a basketball game. And we came back to Maryknoll, Maryknoll School, that's where we were, where we were centered, there was a community center, and gee, we noticed right away everybody's quiet. The whole atmosphere was different, and then there was this Brother Theofain that used to be at Maryknoll. He asked us, "Did you guys hear about it?" and then he told us what happened, and he was very worried. He said something like, "Things aren't going to be the same around here anymore," and you know those were really prophetic words.

JA: How would you describe what happened?

FK: Well, what do you mean?

JA: Well, if I was someone who was a young kid and you wanted to tell him what happened on that day.

FK: Oh, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. That was a super shock to me because, hey, I respected Japan as a country where my parents came from, but, you know, it's a peanut-sized country because over and over and over again, it's the size of California, we're told, the whole country. And just couldn't imagine a little country, you know, dropping bombs in Pearl Harbor, a part of this country. It's obvious that they started the war, this country was caught by surprise, and to think that they started it, wow, that was a shocker. And then a few days later, we find out it was all a pre-planned deal where they took over Asia in a matter of a few weeks, so you know that it was all planned, it's obvious.

JA: What was your family's reaction?

FK: Oh, went into a cocoon, were real worried because, hey, we're at war with Japan and we're in the country that they're warring with, and I'm an American citizen, my sister is an American citizen, and all my friends are American citizens. We're all Nisei. Our parents are all Issei, and we know that's there's going to be big, big problems, and then sure enough, after that Executive Order was put into effect, the wheels started churning and little by little different rules and laws came in effect and, and ended in us going to concentration camps.

JA: How did Pearl Harbor change the way that, apart from the official things like the Executive Order, how did it change the way other American citizens treated you?

FK: Oh, immediately they withdrew most of 'em. I was going to Cathedral High School here in Los Angeles and I was one of the one or two Japanese in that whole school. And previous to that, well, I always was looked on as different, but when the war broke out there was very little communication. I didn't feel at home at all anymore. And at my father's store it was even worse because my father had bought a store about a year previous to all this happening, and this store wasn't a real tiny store, it wasn't a real big store either, but a medium-sized store where the butcher department, or the meat department, was run separately, or leased to a white person. And this person had a son that was in the United States Navy and he was in Pearl Harbor at that time when it was bombed. And, oh, right away they stopped talking to us. And that is a bad situation where you have a store and they run the meat department and you run the rest of it, and there's no communication anymore. I could understand that this man that ran the store, ran the butcher department, had a son in Pearl Harbor. I didn't know it at that time, but sure enough, a few months before we went back to -- went to concentration camp, his son did come back in his Navy uniform and he wouldn't talk to us. Yeah, he would not talk to us. Previously he did, but he would not talk to us anymore, and he would just whisper to his dad and whisper to the customers, and that kind of situation was not the kind of thing you should have in a grocery store. When we had to sell, it was, to me it was sort of a relief because it wouldn't have operated right anymore, you know, under those circumstances.

JA: Did people come to your home to search for...

FK: Not our home, no.

JA: They did not?

FK: No.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.