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_2-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

JA: Tell me about the so-called "riot" at Manzanar.

FK: One thing about that riot you're talking about is, you have to remember that there was no real good communication. It all depended on word-of-mouth and how things get distorted that way. All I knew is that there were people from the JACL, the Japanese American Civil -- no, Japanese American Citizens League, that were working with the United States government and they were going against the interests of the Japanese, most of the Japanese. But from what I understand, some of those guys -- oh, excuse me. Some of those people were pretty forward about it, and apparently, from what I thought, I realized, was that there's a lot of firebrand-type pro-Japanese people, not a lot of them, they were definitely not the majority, but there's enough of them where they banded together to cause a lot of waves and they were pro-Japan. And those two groups are really opposed to each other, and the JACL people are pretty laid-back and they're not aggressive in doing anything except working with the United States government. But the Kibeis, or those pro-Japan types, they're firebrand types where they take physical action. And I think that triggered a lot of uncertainty among the Japanese in Manzanar, and there were a lot of fights and altercations and pretty soon we had, there was gunfire down at the administration area. I didn't know what was going on. Pretty soon there were jeeps running around, spotlights, and soldier groups, and I found out there was a riot and somebody was killed, in fact. But I really, it's just a mishmash to me but I just do know this much, that it was the Kibei or the pro-American -- pro-Japan group versus the pro-American groups.

JA: What was the effect of that event on the community as a whole?

FK: It all died down pretty fast because I think they spirited those JACL people out, which was a good move, I think. Then they were spirited out of camp into another area where they were safe, and then the firebrands had nothing to target themselves against.

JA: So that whole thing was kind of the outpouring of different kinds of tensions.

FK: Yeah. Well, from -- I was reading -- see, I work as a docent in the Manzanar Museum, and reading about it later, I find out there's other tensions that all, they get all wrapped up together. There's some, a lot of people that hear scuttlebutt that why the administration is stealing the food that was destined for us. In fact, they say that food was the cause of a lot of the riots. I didn't realize that, maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, I don't know if they're making up the story or not, but it's all written down. It says in a lot of instances there was food that was the cause, because the food was plain, and it was boring, but it was adequate. Nobody ever starved, but it was boring. And also, there was a lot of, always was tension between pro-Japan groups and...


JA: Tell me again what your father was.

FK: Well, my father was, they were elected or chosen, they want to do a democratic-style in camp, so somebody would be chosen from one block and he would be the one that people in the block would go down to and give their concerns to and he would represent the block in any matter that came up that would, should be acted on by the administration. And his office would be one little apartment way down on one end of the block and it would be the place where if you wanted to read the newspaper, you could go there and read the newspaper, and you could pick up any news that's coming on, coming around that pertains to any of the residents. Like for instance, if there's going to be a meeting of any group or what kind of activities is going on. And he was just one that you would communicate with to know what's going on in camp. Isseis would use him a lot, first-generation, like... first, second-generation like ourselves, I don't think we hardly ever went to the block manager's office. I would go in there once in a while and just read the New York Times. They would have the New York Times and the Los Angeles Examiner and the Los Angeles Times.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2002 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.