Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sachi Kaneshiro Interview
Narrators: Sachi Kaneshiro
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ksachi-01-0002

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RP: Sachi, tell us what you can recall about your family background. Your, specifically, your mother and father and their lives in Japan.

SK: Oh, I don't know too much about their lives in Japan because, you know, we always had this language barrier and so we weren't able to converse freely with each other. But I know my father came seeking a better life. And we think he might have jumped ship and ended up in Mexico. And I, we think, he walked across the border to California and began working as a migrant laborer. While he was working, he met another man from Japan, from Okinawa, and he actually promised my mother to my father (...). And (so the other man), my grandfather actually arranged (the union). (...) But when she heard about it she was very unhappy, of course. (...) She didn't want to leave her home. But she (traveled)... I don't know how many days it took, twenty days by ship to get here, to meet a strange man and become his wife. As she told me once, she was considering jumping overboard. But she knew that would be a disgrace to her family so she carried out her promise to her father. So, anyway, after she arrived, they lived on a, well, actually my father worked for a farmer, a Caucasian farmer, initially. That was the Sawyers. (He) after a few years went on his own. But he couldn't own any land. He leased the land. He couldn't own (...) land because of the (alien) land law in 1913 that prohibited Japanese from owning property. So he became a truck farmer, growing vegetables and...

RP: Where did he, where did he establish himself?

SK: Where?

RP: Uh-huh.

SK: Well he first started in Baldwin Park, which is close to Covina. And then moved to Covina.

RP: Where did he get the name of the grandfather who sort of arranged the marriage?

SK: Do you want his name?

RP: Yeah, could you spell it?

SK: Miyahira. M-I-Y-A-H-I-R-A. I've forgotten his first name. But, but...

RP: And your, your mother's first name was Hana?

SK: Hana Miyahira, yes.

RP: And did she have, did she have any other sisters and brothers that eventually came to the United States?

SK: Yes, my uncle (Chasuke Miyahira), who was fourteen when he came here. Oh, actually, he came with her. That's right, they came together. Then he went to the same... no, wait a minute. He went to (the) same elementary school I went to. (Where) he learned English and then left here, L.A., in 1927 to go to New York.

RP: That's the uncle who went to New York.

SK: Right. Uh-huh. And then she had two older --

RP: What was his name?

SK: -- sisters who went to South America to live because by that time, that was, you know, 1924, they banned all emigration from Japan. And so (although) they intended to come here, they bypassed California and went to Brazil. So that's where they (established themselves).

RP: Is there still a family presence in Brazil?

SK: Yes, yes. In fact, I've visited with my mother twice in the 1980s. Her sister had passed away but the children are all still there and live. (They now have) grandchildren. But they're doing well.

RP: And did they, did those families establish themselves as farmers in Brazil? Or what did they do there?

SK: No. Well, it's kind of like what happened with the Japanese here. The first generation were farmers and second generation became professionals. And, so the family I met were mostly, the second generation, were doctors and bankers. Our cousin is a banker. And, yeah I guess...

Off Camera: Businesspeople huh?

SK: Oh, I'm sorry, the second generation were business people and the third generation were the professionals. That's right.

RP: Professionals, uh-huh. It would be interesting to, to look into how Japanese Isseis were accepted in South America as, in contrast to the United States.

SK: Yes.

RP: Did they face similar obstacles?

SK: Uh-huh.

RP: Like the land law and other things like that.

SK: Yeah. No doubt. Yeah. But they, most of the Japanese were doing very well, where we went anyway. They had nice homes and...

RP: Uh-huh. Were they in cities or rural areas?

SK: They were in a place called Campo Grande, which is a city. But we also went to Rio and we went to... anyway, I can't think of that (place). Very uh...

RP: Sao Paolo?

SK: Sao Paolo. And, and then to Campo Grande.

KP: What was your language of communication with your cousins?

SK: Well, it, it was difficult because they speak Portuguese, right? I had a cousin who worked in a bank in Bolivia. And so she spoke some Spanish so I, with my rudimentary Spanish was able to communicate with her. But mainly by dictionary. I had my Portuguese-English dictionary and, and my cousins had their English-Portuguese, well, vice-a-versa, anyway.

KP: So no Japanese spoken at all?

SK: Our parents, my mother spoke Japanese but (the Issei in Brazil) spoke Japanese better than (Portuguese). They spoke no English at all. So I did speak to some of the cousins in Japanese. But that was an interesting experience.

RP: Can you give me your, your uncle's name again? The one who was in New York?

SK: Yes, his first name was Cho.

RP: Cho?

SK: C-H-O. It was, it's kinda cut short for Chosuke Miyahira.

RP: Miyahira, okay. So he went to New York. What was your, were your parents married in California?

SK: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: Your mom came over and they married?

SK: Right, yes. I remember seeing their marriage certificate.

RP: Uh-huh. Okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.