Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Rokuro Kurihara Interview
Narrator: Rokuro Kurihara
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Glendale, California
Date: May 10, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-krokuro-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: -- an oral history interview for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This afternoon we're talking with Rokuro Kurihara. Mr. Kurihara lives at 518 Monte Vista Avenue in Glendale, California. Our interview date is May 13, 2009. Kirk Peterson is manning the camera and Richard Potashin is our interrogator.

RK: [Laughs] Oh, okay.

RP: And we'll be talking with Mr. Kurihara about his experiences as an internee at the Manzanar War Relocation Center and then afterward in the Seabrook Industries in New Jersey.

RK: Bridgeton, New Jersey.

RP: Bridgeton, New, Bridgeton, New Jersey. We'll archive this interview in the site's, site's library. Rokuro, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview today?

RK: Yes, you sure can.

RP: Thank you very much. And, how do you want me to refer to you, Rocky or Rock?

RK: Rok.

RP: Rok, okay.

RK: Rok.

RP: Rok, okay.

RK: Yeah. That's the Japanese version of my name, Rokuro.

RP: Rok. Okay Rok. Tell us where you were born and what year.

RK: I was born July 11, 1927, at 544 West Riverdale, in Glendale.

RP: And how far down the road is that?

RK: About a mile, mile down, on Pacific.

RP: You haven't moved very far, in that...

RK: No. [Laughs]

RP: The only place you moved to was Manzanar. And you didn't have any choice in that.

RK: Yeah. Well, I lived at my mom's place and, and then we moved to Vine Street when I got married. And then we moved here.

RP: Yeah. Can you share with us some, what you can recall about your, your family, your parents especially. Can you give us your dad's first name?

RK: My dad's name is Kenjiro, Kenjiro.

RP: Can you spell that?

RK: K-E-N-J-I-R-O.

RP: Okay. Kenjiro Kurihara.

RK: And my mom's name was Nobu, Nobu, N-O-B-U.

RP: N-O-B... uh-huh. Where did your father come from in Japan?

RK: Shizuoka-ken. Enoura, Enoura, Shizuoka-ken. And my mom came from Shizuoka-ken, Numazu, Numazu-shi.

RP: Did your father share with you any information about his early life in Japan?

RK: Well, he was a fisherman. He was a fisherman. Enoura is a fishing village so he, he was a fisherman.

RP: And was he, was he from a large family?

RK: Well, he was adopted into this family, into the Kurihara family.

RP: Originally, he was born into what family? Do you know?

RK: I think his name was Kawaguchi. Kawaguchi. And I think he was born, I think, he was born in a town called Odawara, Odawara.

RP: So he grew up in another family...

RK: Yeah.

RP: a fisherman.

RK: Yeah, into the Kurihara family.

RP: And then he came to America. Do you know what, roughly when he came?

RK: You know, I would say about 1915. I'm not sure, but about 1915, I think.

RP: Uh-huh. Where did he settle?

RK: Well, I think he came to, as a schoolboy or something. He went to La Jolla, you know, near San Diego, La Jolla.

RP: And as a schoolboy, he was trying to finish high school or...

RK: No, I don't know about that, you know. That's what I heard anyway.

RP: Uh-huh. That's where he got, he settled in there.

RK: Yeah. But not very long. Not very long before he came to Glendale.

RP: And, what did he do in Glendale?

RK: Glendale he, at first, this was, he peddled the vegetable and fruits at first. And after that, he was a gardener. And his, his whole lifetime was a gardener, as a gardener.

RP: When did your mother come over?

RK: I don't know. But it was right around 1916, I guess, yeah.

RP: Do you know if they married here in the United States or did he go back to get her?

RK: No, I'm sure they were married in Japan.

RP: Oh, in Japan.

RK: Yeah. Japan.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: Tell us about your, maybe you can list your siblings for us, the oldest...

RK: Okay.

RP: ...down to the youngest. give, give us their name and maybe a little bit, little information about them, maybe about their personality or what do you remember about them.

RK: Well my oldest brother, his name is Kenichi, Kenichi.

RP: Did he have a, did he have an American name at all?

RK: No.

RP: No.

RK: No, he didn't.

RP: Okay.

RK: And he, he was born in 1918, 1918. And he went through the Glendale school system and he graduated Glendale High School. Then he went to USC and then he went to camp. Then from camp he went to Saint Louis and finished his pharmacy degree.

RP: So was it while he was at USC that he had to go to camp? Was his education interrupted at USC by evacuation?

RK: Yeah, yeah. It was, it was interrupted, uh-huh.

RP: And then Fusao is the next one?

RK: Fusao, yeah. Well, he went by Richard, Dick. He was the only one that had the English name. And, what he did is that he went through the same Glendale school system, Edison Roosevelt. But he graduated Hoover High School which is here, Hoover High School. And then he went to a technical school called Curtiss-Wright, Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute. And he became an engineer, aeronautical engineer.

RP: This is before the war?

RK: Before the war. And he graduated before the war, too. And he too was, went to camp. But he's the one that just sort of passed through. And he went to Cleveland, Ohio, he relocated to Cleveland, Ohio.

RP: You said he was working, he graduated technical school...

RK: Here.

RP: ...and then got a job as an aeronautical engineer?

RK: But not here, in Cleveland.

RP: Oh, Cleveland.

RK: Cleveland.

RP: Did he try to get a job here before camp, or...

RK: Well, you know, it was right about the time when he graduated so he didn't have that much of a chance. But he never worked here as an engineer. And my third brother, his name is Saburo.

RP: Saburo?

RK: Saburo. Is he listed on there?

RP: He's not.

RK: He's not? He's, he's the third brother.

RP: That's right, because the fourth brother is Shiro.

RK: Yeah. No, you need the... between Dick and Shiro there's Saburo.

RP: Huh. Tell us about Saburo.

RK: Well, Saburo, he went through the same school system. Went to Hoover High School, graduated, and like a lot of other boys at that time, went to Japan to learn, to learn Japanese. And he was caught in the war, he was caught in the war but he was in Japan. And what I heard is that from, from Japan he went to Singapore. And stayed, you know, stayed during the war in Singapore, with the Japanese whatever, you know.

RP: He wasn't a...

RK: He, he wasn't drafted because he wasn't a Japanese citizen.

RP: He was an American citizen. So he served in some other capacity?

RK: Yeah.

RP: Maybe as...

RK: In the agricultural thing.

RP: Do you, do you recall when he went over to Japan? Was it just before the war broke out?

RK: Let's see, we went to camp in '42, right? '42? So he went to, he went to Japan about '40, 1940.

RP: And did he, did he stay with the, stay with the family who was over there?

RK: You know, I don't know. But if it's anybody it was a family called, named Ono, Ono.

RP: Ono?

RK: Yeah.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: I think. I'm not sure.

RP: And he was the only one of the brothers that was sent back to Japan?

RK: Yeah he, well, we, my folks sent him to Japan.

RP: Specifically to learn Japanese?

RK: Yeah. And a lot of families did that.

RP: Right. That was a common, if, if you had the resources and money to do it.

RK: Yeah.

RP: And did he eventually come back to America?

RK: Oh yes, yes. He did.

RP: After, right after the war?

RK: Yeah he, let's see, we're talking about, we're talking about forty, '45, so, so he, he must have come back about '46 or '47, he came back. I'm not sure on those dates either.

RP: Oh. And Shiro.

RK: Shiro, he, Shiro, well, he went through the same school system and graduated Hoover High School. And he went to camp with us at about the same time. Yeah, it was about April '42. That's when we all went. And he literally stayed 'til the end, too. Literally stayed 'til the end of camp.

RP: You said he closed the gates.

RK: Yeah, he almost literally closed the gate. He came back, we had the truck stored, and he came back with the truck and brought a lot of people home. Yeah.

RP: Goro.

RK: Goro, he was, he went through the same school system that I did, but he graduated at Manzanar High School. And, and he, and he was drafted out of the, out of camp and went to the army. Stationed in Germany, I think. At least, I think.

RP: Okay.

RK: And you know, and we, and we all did the usual things that, that families of Japanese ancestry did. We'd, we had to go to Japanese school. We had to go do judo and, and play our baseball games and all that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Where was the Japanese school here in Glendale?

RK: It was called Daishi Gakuen. It was over there on Treadwell, right off of San Fernando. Daishi Gakuen.

RP: Was it a, a Buddhist church or a...

RK: Oh no, no.

RP: It was its own building?

RK: It was a Japanese... it was no denomination, no.

RP: Uh-huh. What was, what was going to Japanese school like for you?

RK: It was an extra day of going to school so didn't learn too much. But we had to go. So, we, we must have been, spent about six years in Japanese school, at least. But, you know, it was the extra day to go to school so...

RP: And judo, where did you, was there a dojo located in Glendale?

RK: Oh yeah, Glendale had a dojo.

RP: When did you start taking judo?

RK: Oh, I would say grammar school days, while I was in grammar school. See, that's my, my third brother, Saburo, he went on a, a judo tour to Japan. And when he did that, he stayed there. You know, they had a lot of judo tours to Japan. And he was one of 'em that went.

RP: Did you, did you want to take judo or was it something your parents thought you should do?

RK: Thought we should do, but we enjoyed it, you know. We enjoyed it.

RP: Now did you, did you compete with other judo dojos in the area?

RK: Oh yeah, in Southern California, we sure did. Uh-huh.

RP: San Fernando had a dojo?

RK: Yeah.

RP: North Hollywood?

RK: Well, Manzanar, Manzanar had a dojo.

RP: Did you, did you take judo up there?

RK: Yeah, yeah. Sure. Yeah.

RP: We talked to one of the sons of one of the head instructors, Murakami?

RK: Yeah, yeah. He was a teacher. Yeah he, I think he was from North Hollywood you know. Yeah. Murakami Sensei. [Laughs]

RP: Do you remember anything special about him?

RK: Well, not much. I really don't know.

RP: What was the, what was your family's religions affiliation at that time?

RK: Protestant, Christian, Protestant.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: We were all, matter of fact, my folks were Christians in Japan, too. One of the few. And I think they, they got, they got married in a Christian ceremony. Yeah. You know, and our church affiliation here in Glendale was called Mikuni, Mikuni Christian Church. And that's where we all went.

RP: Did, you mentioned you played baseball, too.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Good old American pastime.

RK: Yeah. Well, we were here, you know, before the war.

RP: Before the war.

RK: Our group, we, we were called the Verdugans. We were called the Verdugans. But when we camp, went to camp we formed our own team.

RP: Same group of guys?

RK: No. It wasn't the same group of guys. The Verdugans were all Glendale people.

RP: Were they just Japanese American kids or were they...

RK: Oh, all Japanese American kids.

RP: So where would you play around here?

RK: Where would we... well, we played in Evergreen playground in Los Angeles. Places like that.

RP: Did you have any baseball idols growing up?

RK: Not in particular. Not in particular.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: Do you have any other memories about growing up in Glendale?

RK: Oh, oh yeah.

RP: Tell us about it.

RK: Well, I went to school at Edison. Edison and no, no problem. You know, I started kindergarten there. And then, then I went to Roosevelt. And I graduated Roosevelt. And then when I never did graduate Roosevelt, I went to camp. Then in between, in '41, I went to Japan for one, for three months with my mom.

RP: What was that like for you?

RK: It was a good trip. It was a pleasant trip. You know, stayed with my uncles and cousins. It was a pleasant trip. In Shizuoka, too, you know.

RP: Your father was a gardener here --

RK: Here. Here in Glendale.

RP: -- when you were growing up.

RK: Here in Glendale. As many other Japanese were too, you know.

RP: Did you work with him at all while you were growing up?

RK: No, I didn't. No, not while I was growing up, not as such.

PR: Did he have his own truck and his own tools?

RK: He had his own truck, sure.

RP: And his clients were all around here?

RK: Glendalians, yeah, around here, yeah. See, Saburo... Saburo, Shiro, and Goro, they were all gardeners here, too.

RP: They worked with your dad, too?

RK: They worked with my dad but then they sort of went off on their own.

RP: On their own?

RK: Yeah. After the war, yeah. And I did help my brothers, you know. I did help my brothers.

RP: Yeah, it's interesting. We were just talking about gardening and the weed whacker starts up.

RK: [Laughs]

RP: A different generation of gardening.

RK: Matter of fact, I remember doing this, this yard.

RP: Do you?

RK: Yeah.

RP: Huh. So were you the, the lawn, the mower guy or...

RK: Oh, no, no. I just helped my brothers, you know. Not, I did everything. During the summer breaks, you know, during, because I was going to school in Cleveland, so, summertime I would come home and help them.

RP: You'd come back here?

RK: Uh-huh... yeah, and then, I still remember it was in April. That, that's when we relocated to, to Manzanar. It was in April. I remember it was in April. Greyhound buses out of Burbank. Vividly remember that.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: So you took the buses all the way up to Manzanar?

RK: Yeah.

RP: No train?

RK: No train. Yeah, it was all buses.

RP: And you were, you were assigned to Block 6.

RK: Yeah.

RP: You were one of the earliest groups to, to go.

RK: But we weren't the earliest because after the war, right beginning of the war, they were already talking about relocation. So a lot of people volunteered to go to Manzanar.

RP: They started from (Santa Anita).

RK: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. What I remember, what I remember about that bus trip... you know where Olancha is? You know where the trees are? That's where we stopped. The whole line of buses. Sort of a fun time. [Laughs]

RP: Was that a, was that a bathroom break stop or...

RK: More or less, yeah.

RP: That was the only stop you made all the way from Burbank to Manzanar?

RK: Yeah, if I remember, that was the only stop. Yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: Tell us a little bit about your recollections of December 7, 1941.

RK: December 7th. That was a Sunday, you know? That was a Sunday. We went to church. We went to church. Then after that the family, we went to a farm, Oda's farm. And we were picking cabbage. We were picking cabbage and then through the radio, that's when we heard about the war. Then the next day, then the next day was Monday, huh? Shoot, now we gotta go to school. So, so we went to school. We had to go to school. My mom says, "You gotta go to school," so we went to school. And we continued all the way until April. And, but anyway, the kids were very, very good. They were no problem. They were very tolerant. The school was, too. So, no problem really.

RP: How many minorities did you have in the, in the school? Did you have any other Japanese Americans besides...

RK: Oh, oh yeah, sure. Sure. Yeah. Matter of fact, Glendale was a larger Japanese community then than it is now. Much larger. There's only a handful of Japanese here now. But in those days, we had our own Japanese school. We had our own church. We had our own judo dojo. Although the church is still here. The church that I attended is still here. Matter of fact, it's just up the street.

RP: Did you have any Japanese stores in Glendale?

RK: Grocery stores? Sure.

RP: Markets or other.

RK: Sure. Sure they, there was the Capitol Market. the one on San Fernando was called Little Pig, Little Pig Market. Yeah, Yasudas had that. And quite a few nurseries, too.

RP: Do you remember any of them?

RK: Tropical Nursery, sure. Kishis had that. And then, see the Armstrong Nursery here, that was Satsuma nursery. That was a Japanese nursery and that nursery is still here.

RP: And that's where your father would, would go to get some of his plants there, at the nurseries?

RK: Oh, yeah.

RP: Did he ever grow any of his own?

RK: No, no. And like I said, it was quite a few grocery, produce and grocery stores. Ito's, Hiroto's...

RP: Did you make any trips into Little Tokyo for any reason?

RK: You know, before we used to do, make a lot of trips. But not no more, not now. Because there's no need to, that's why. You could buy any kind of food item anywhere now. So, you know, you just, and then it's not the, it's not the old Little Tokyo the way it is now.

RP: How do you remember Little Tokyo back before the war?

RK: Oh, it was, it was Little Tokyo. You know, First Street in San Pedro was the hub. And it was all Japanese establishments. And Rafu Dojo, the judo dojo there was right there. And that's where most of the tournaments were held there. Vivid remember...

RP: But pretty vibrant community.

RK: Oh, yeah. It was a vibrant, it was... it was Little Tokyo, definitely.

RP: So when you went down there what would you do? Would you do some shopping or...

RK: Yeah, shopping, yeah. Things like... yeah.

RP: Uh-huh. Did your family own their own house in Glendale here or did you lease a house?

RK: Yes, they owned, the owned their house. And they were, our Caucasian friends here were very nice. They, they did everything for us. Even before they started our Sunday school, they started our Japanese school.

RP: They did?

RK: Yeah. And then they took care of things while we were in camp.

RP: Like what?

RK: They stored all our belongings in the house. They collected the rent because they rented it out.

RP: And they sent you the money in camp?

RK: Yeah, no, when came back they had it in an envelope and gave it to my folks. Their name, their name was Vanloons.

RP: Vanloon?

RK: Vanloons.

RP: V-A-N-L--

RK: V-A-N-L-O-O-N-S. And there were Larsons. There was the Bakers. Very nice people.

RP: So were they affiliated with...

RK: With the church.

RP: With the church. Uh-huh. Matter of fact, they started the church. They started it. We didn't start it. They started the church.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: After, after Pearl Harbor, there was restrictions on travel placed on Japanese Americans. I think you could travel five miles...

RK: There probably was. But, it didn't mean too much to us.

RP: How about your dad?

RK: We, we didn't travel too much anyway.

RP: Was your, how about your father's gardening business?

RK: Well, it was within, within the two-mile radius.

RP: That's it?

RK: That's where he worked, just around here.

RP: Oh, okay.

RK: So, there was, there was no problem there.

RP: How about having to turn in shortwave radios or cameras or things of that nature? It was referred to as contraband, you had to turn it in to the police station or...

RK: Yeah. Well, I guess we turned in what we were supposed to, but we kept a lot of, most of the stuff anyway. We had our radios, we had our cameras. [Laughs] So, you know, it wasn't that much, it wasn't that much restrictions. Yeah.

RP: How about the, I hear from a number of people that they either burned items that had significance to Japan, records or pictures of the emperor, things of that nature.

RK: I don't recall anything like that. But they did, they did, people who had an affiliation with the Japanese school and judo, those people who, they were interned first, first.

RP: Picked up.

RK: But, other than that, our family wasn't involved at all. Yeah.

RP: So you were fortunate to have neighbors who...

RK: Oh, our neighbors were great.

RP: Yeah?

RK: Yeah, our neighbors were great. Yeah. No problem.

RK: And like I said, there was a lot of other Japanese families around, too. And we all went to camp.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: So in Block 6 were there a large number of people from Glendale living in that block? Do you remember?

RK: No, there wasn't. Block 12 there were. Block 12 there were, you now, just right across the way? Yeah, the Watanabes were there. The Okamuros were there. And there were quite a few in Block 17.

RP: Glendale?

RK: Yeah, the Chimoris were there. Sakamotos were there.

RP: So --

RK: Come to think of it, we were the only Glendale people in Block 6.

RP: In 6?

RK: I can't think of any.

RP: Who else was in Block 6? What other communities or groups that you recall?

RK: Well, the Yokomizas were ... San Fernando, I would say San Fernando. I really don't know. Block 6 was sort of diverse. They came from all over. Boyle Heights and San Fernando... yeah, and we were, we were the only...

RP: Were there other, other folks who, other than your brothers and your mom and dad, that was who was in your barrack? In your barrack room, it was just your family? There was no other families also put into your barrack room?

RK: Yeah, well, there was a very good friend of ours. He, he was the only one that was in our, that was in our... his name was Kamimura.

RP: Kamimura?

RK: Yeah.

RP: From Glendale, too?

RK: Yeah, and you know, there was six of us, six of us including him. And folks, too, so there was eight people, and we took up the whole barrack. So there was no other people. You know, and there was, we didn't have to put up any, you know. So we were a big group so we had our own barrack, in other words.

RP: Uh-huh. Had you ever taken any trips out of Los Angeles before you went to camp?

RK: Oh sure, sure. Sure, we went to Mammoth a lot before...

RP: Before...

RK: Before, before camp.

RP: Really?

RK: Yeah. I thought Tom's Place was named for a friend of ours. We used to go so... his name was Tom, that's why. And then you know, like I say, I went to Japan, too, before the war.

RP: Would you go up there to fish or?

RK: To fish. Yeah, we were there, we were in Lake Mary when it was Lake Mary. [Laughs]

RP: That would be a summer vacation type of trip?

RK: Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah, they were fun times.

RP: What did you travel in? What kind of car did, did your family own?

RK: Well, they had this truck for gardening purposes. And, what did we... yeah, we had this beat up Chrysler. I remember that Chrysler. But that's about it.

RP: What about the, that area, the Mammoth area, or the Owens Valley area, impacted you?

RK: Well, it was a, it was a, just as it is now. It was a great place. Oh, a matter of, we used to go up there quite often. Every summer, every summer we used to go up there. This Tom Sano, who was a friend of ours, who sort of lived with us even, he would go up there all the time. He was, he was quite a fisherman. He knew that whole area.

RP: So that's where you picked up your fishing bug?

RK: Yeah, I think so. I think so.

RP: So it's just natural for you to want to keep fishing when went to camp.

RK: Yeah, well, you know, we used to go to Big Bear too. You know where Big Bear is? And then, then the war came along and we went to camp.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Did your, did your father work in camp?

RK: Yeah, he worked in camp. He, he worked in, he worked on the farm, yeah. He worked on the farm. And my mom, she worked in the kitchen. Sixteen dollars, or twelve dollars a month. Which was good.

RP: How about your other brothers? Do you know what they did in camp?

RK: Ken... gee, I don't know what Ken did. And they were, they were there such a short time you know. And my brother, the second brother, I don't think he did. Shiro he, he delivered oil I remember.

RP: Uh-huh, for the stoves.

RK: Stoves, yeah.

RP: Huh.

RK: And Goro, well, he, we were still in school. And like, and like myself, I worked in the... you know these, I worked for Kado, you know. You know Kado?

RP: Yeah Kado.

RK: He, he was the stone mason?

RP: Right.

RK: I worked for them. Most every summer I worked for him.

RP: Every summer?

RK: Yeah.

RP: And when --

RK: And you know we had this camouflage net place, camouflage net. I worked there too.

RP: Oh. Yeah, that was open the first summer that you were there.

RK: Yeah, they sort of closed that place down, you know. I don't know why, but...

RP: You worked on actually weaving nets?

RK: No, we, we cut the, we cut the, cut the... in strips.

RP: Oh, you cut the strips.

RK: Strips, so they could weave into the net.

RP: Oh. Uh-huh.

RK: That's what I did anyway.

RP: You did that?

RK: That's what I remember.

RP: Uh-huh. Did you have any problems with the, the chemicals or the dyes on the strips? Some, some guys complained about rashes and things.

RK: Well, if they did I didn't know about it. [Laughs] No. No.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: So was, was the, was going to Manzanar... well, some people expressed that it was kind of an adventure for them to go out...

RK: It was an adventure, yeah. It was, it was pretty nice, I thought.

RP: It was like another trip up to the Eastern Sierras.

RK: Yeah, another trip. Yeah we, we were thought we were actually in camp you know. [Laughs]

RP: [Laughs]

RK: We ate together. Showered together.

RP: Oh. Did the family eat together too or did you kind of go off in your own separate...

RK: We, we normally ate together as a family. But you could go off, you know, by yourself.

RP: So, so did you, when you knew that you were going to camp, was there any anger or bitterness on the part of your brothers or your parents or yourself about, you know, "Why is this happening to us?" "What did we do?"

RK: No, there, there wasn't, in our family anyway. Because we didn't have much and we didn't lose anything. But, I guess people who lost their homes and lost their business and things like that must have. But our family... matter of fact, we were sort of glad to go.

RP: Why?

RK: Huh?

RP: Why?

RK: Another adventure. [Laughs]

RP: Break up the usual routine.

RK: Yeah, routine, yeah. As a matter of fact, the folks thought, thought it was sort of like a vacation. [Laughs] And, like, we were kids. We sort of, we sort of had fun.

RP: So, did you like working in the net factory?

RK: Yeah, sure.

RP: You made some money.

RK: Made some money. Sixteen dollars. [Laughs]

RP: Did, do you remember, did they used to play music during the day in the net factory when people were weaving the nets?

RK: Well, they, they played music, yeah. Sure they did. Sure.

RP: Yeah.

RK: But, but that was when, that only lasted a couple years.

RP: Oh, not even a year.

RK: Yeah. About a year.

RP: It was about maybe seven or eight months.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Yeah.

RK: I think something must have happened or something.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: Then you started working for Kado.

RK: Yeah, I worked, I worked for him all the rest of the time. At least two summers.

RP: Tell us, tell us what did you do for him?

RK: You know those two, two stone sentry posts, the guard and the police? Well, we built those. We built those. And the two, two entrance posts on the side, you ever notice two entrance? Those.

RP: Oh, that look like, they look like tree stumps?

RK: Yeah, tree stumps, yeah. And you know, have you noticed that in Manzanar, especially in the, in the mess hall areas, everybody had a pond. Have you ever noticed that? Well, I think Kado, he probably built every one of them. So we had...

RP: You were busy.

RK: We were, we were busy.

RP: So did you go out to, to collect stones for this...

RK: Yeah, you know those, those colored rocks? We went on White Mountain side, the White Mountain range? That side. The plain, granite like stones, we went on this side to get. It was a fun job. Yeah.

RP: And you were given a truck to go out and collect rocks?

RK: Oh yeah, sure, sure.

RP: Now did you have a, did you have an MP or an escort or somebody go with you?

RK: We had a driver, but no guard. No, I don't remember. I don't remember.

RP: How many, how many folks worked on the crew?

RK: Besides Mr. Kado?

RP: Besides Mr. Kado and you, who else do you recall?

RK: Oh, there were about eight of us, eight or ten of us. See, his son...

RP: Louie.

RK: Louie, Louie was, he sort of, sort of knew everything.

RP: So Louie kind of was...

RK: Yeah. He was the foreman.

RP: Foreman.

RK: [Laughs]

RP: Supervisor.

RK: Yeah. Mr. Kado, he was the boss.

RP: Do you remember anybody else on the crew besides Louie and his father?

RK: Oh, yeah, Tomotsu and Shig Nakahara, yeah, they were on there. But I don't remember...

RP: So you would go out to a place towards the Inyo & White Mountains there?

RK: That area. You know where Owens River is?

RP: And Mr. Kado would go out and point out boulders or...

RK: Yeah, he would tell us what kind of rock to gather. And we would. And we would, yeah.

RP: And these rocks, some of these were heavy.

RK: Heavy, sure.

RP: Did you have any type of a lift or a crane on the truck? Or would you just use your...

RK: Oh no, no. We'd just lift it. Yeah.

RP: So while you were out that way, did you ever fish the Owens River at all?

RK: No, we got those, no... most of the ponds, they had carps. You know, we'd catch the carp and bring 'em in.

RP: And dump them in the ponds?

RK: Yeah. Big carps, huh?

RP: Did you collect those with garbage cans or, how did you get it?

RK: Nets, usually.

RP: Just nets?

RK: Yeah.

RP: And then you'd bring the rocks back and, did you, you mixed the mortar right there on the site?

RK: On site, and place it in. Of course, Mr. Kado, he was in charge, you know.

RP: Right.

RK: He, he'd build the forms and we'd just place the rocks in.

RP: Uh-huh. How about the, the tree stumps? Do you remember how those were made?

RK: Oh, yeah. Mr. Kado made those.

RP: Can you tell us the process he went through?

RK: Well, it was, I really think they were made out of colored cement. Colored concrete, cement. How he, how he managed the color, I don't know. But he had a knack of making it look like a log or whatever. He was good at it.

RP: He was good at it.

RK: Yeah.

RP: He put in the lines.

RK: Yeah, he put in the lines and everything else.

RP: Knotholes.

RK: Yeah, he'd make a log that looked like a log. [Laughs]

RP: Do you recall how long it took to build the sentry posts?

RK: The whole summer. [Laughs] The whole... the building anyway.

RP: Just the rock work?

RK: Yeah, it would take us, I would recall the whole summer, the two sentry posts anyway.

RP: There was another sentry post built down at the military police camp, which was just south of the large camp that you were in.

RK: Yeah, I don't remember that though.

RP: You don't remember--

RK: I just remember the --

RP: The two.

RK: -- the military one and then the one where the police department was.

RP: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: Did you work on any of the gardens as well?

RK: Yeah, well, I sure worked on the Block 6 and Block 12 one, yeah.

RP: The Block 6 garden is... we haven't excavated that one yet but that's supposed to be the next one in line.

RK: Oh, yeah?

RP: You worked on the Block 9 garden, too?

RK: I don't recall. I probably could have, yeah.

RP: So, Mr. Kado, as you can recall, designed the Block 6 garden?

RK: Yeah, he probably did, yeah. Yeah.

RP: And rocks came from where for that garden?

RK: On the Sierra side. Because they were different rocks. They were white, granite rocks. Whereas the other one was, sort of had color to it. Yeah. You know, I spent three years there you know, going to school.

RP: How about the cemetery tower? Mr. Kado also worked on the cemetery tower in the back of the camp?

RK: Yeah, he did. You know I got a great picture of that, too. I've gotta take it up to...

RP: Did you work on that, too?

RK: You know, I don't recall workin' on that. I don't recall working on that. I know what you mean, though. I have a picture of it.

RP: So how did he, you said that Louie was kind of the supervisor.

RK: Yeah, well, he was the son, so you know, he sort of...

RP: Did he...

RK: ...he was sort of the foreman.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: But he was like us. He'd goof off here and there.

RP: Teenager, too, huh.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RK: And the school was great. No, no problem with the school, the high school? Teachers were good. And it was a tough school, too. Just because we were in camp, boy, these other guys, they studied just as hard as you did. So, pretty tough school.

RP: You had kids from a lot of high schools all over L.A. so.

RK: Oh, yeah, uh-huh. And I'm willing to bet most of 'em went to college, too. You know it? After that.

RP: Did you, did you feel challenged there? Did you, was your education challenging? Did it, did you feel like you learned something while you were there?

RK: Oh definitely learned something there. Definitely. Because all our units and grades counted. I applied all over. Had no problem getting into any, any of the schools, and neither did anybody else either. So, that part was good.

RP: Did you have a favorite teacher?

RK: Favorite teacher... yeah, our speech teacher. I remember him. The reason why I remember, he was blind. I forgot his name. Great teacher. Yeah, he's the only one. And then I remember, well, even my brother taught a little bit. They taught their math and chemistry. And, and did you know a fellow named Shimpei Nishimura? Did you? Did you know him?

RP: I didn't know him, no.

RK: He was, yeah, he was the head of the guayule.

RP: Guayule.

RK: Guayule project. He was the, he was a Cal-Tech graduate. And he used, he used to teach chemistry and all that.

RP: High school?

RK: Uh-huh. Brilliant guy, brilliant guy.

RP: And you were, we were talking earlier about Block 6, and you were kind of located around a, a number of interesting features of the camp.

RK: Yeah.

RP: One of which was the guayule project.

RK: Yeah.

RP: And, can you, do you remember --

RK: You know like, Bairs Creek was there, too, the swimming hole was there. [Laughs]

RP: Was that, was that something that was used by, by everybody or just kids, small kids wading around?

RK: Well, it was used by everybody, but mostly kids, huh. Yeah. Place to hang out.

RP: Did you go over and visit the Guayule lath house area?

RK: Oh, all the time. All the time. Matter of fact, he, Shimpei, he tutored us in math and chemistry and physics and things like that. 'Cause I think he was a Cal-Tech graduate, you know.

RP: There was also the, next door was the Manzanar nursery.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Guayule area.

RK: Yeah. Mr. Yokomizo, I think he worked there.

RP: He worked there. How about the golf course?

RK: I know the golf course was sand, huh? It was all sand. The greens were all sand. That's about all I remember. But they played on it and the Oshios played on it. My neighbor, he played there. So, we used to bang, bang a couple of balls there, too.

RP: Did you?

RK: Yeah.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Let's talk a little bit about your fishing adventures there in Manzanar. Where did you go out to fish?

RK: Oh, if we fished, we just went to George Creek or Shepherds Creek. That's about it.

RP: Did you, did you fish early, when, just after you just got to camp or was it later on that you...

RK: It was later on. Definitely later on.

RP: So...

RK: And after that there was no problem.

RP: You didn't have to sneak out at night?

RK: The guards, they almost let you go out. You didn't have to sneak out.

RP: So you went down to George Creek and --

RK: George, yeah.

RP: -- fished. Yeah. How, did you have, you said you had gone fishing up at, in the Lake Mary area or Mammoth.

RK: Oh, that was before we went to camp though.

RP: Did you have, did you have rod and reels and tackle that you brought up with you to camp?

RK: Well, we brought a few rod and reels, too.

RP: Did you?

RK: Yeah. We had our own.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: And then we went to the canteen, the local store. They even sold it in there.

RP: Oh, they did?

RK: Sure.

RP: Uh-huh. So would you dig your own worms?

RK: We'd dig our own or buy salmon eggs or something, something like that.

RP: Uh-huh. So what did you catch? Did you catch Rainbows or...

RK: Brookies or...

RP: Brookies?

RK: Yeah. But the main thing we did in, was of course basketball, baseball, and card games, pinochle.

RP: Pinochle. [Laughs]

RK: That's what that's what consisted of our pastime. Pinochle, basketball, baseball.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: So did you have block teams for basketball and baseball?

RK: Yeah. We were called the Tro-babes.

RP: Tro-babes?

RK: Tro-babes. You know, for USA Trojans? Tro-babes.

RP: Oh.

RK: That's what we were called.

RP: Where did you play your baseball games? In the firebreak?

RK: Oh, between the firebreaks. The firebreaks was the baseball field.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: And then all, every block had a basketball court, if you ever notice that. You know, where the bathrooms were. boys bathroom, girls bathroom, and then there was a laundry room. Then on one side was a basketball court.

RP: And that was also the Tro-babes, too?

RK: Yeah, our club was called the Tro-babes. Our team was called Tro-babes.

RP: Huh. So who, who else was on the team besides you?

RK: Oh, the Nakaharas, the... Togo, there's a whole bunch of us.

RP: Did you, did you have uniforms at all or just...

RK: Yeah, oh yeah. We had uniforms. We had uniforms.

RP: And the equipment, the bats and the balls, how did you get those?

RK: Oh, they, they sold them in the canteen.

RP: The canteen. What you couldn't get in the canteen you just ordered from the...

RK: Or Sears catalog.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: Yeah, everybody had the Sears catalog. You can get everything through the Sears...

RP: So, whatever blocks did you play in baseball and basketball?

RK: Well, everybody had their own group. They made up teams.

RP: You made up teams within your block, the block, okay.

RK: Yeah. Like the Terminal Island people, the San Pedro Terminal Island, they had their team. They were called the Skippers, of course. San Fernando, they had their team. They were called the Aces.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: And the Boyle Heights area, they had their team. And the Wanjis had their team.

RP: Wanjis?

RK: Yeah. One of 'em was called the Wanjis.


RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Rok Kurihara. And Rok, you were just talking about some of the sporting activities that you participated in. And we were talking about baseball, specifically, so did you ever play any teams from Terminal Island, baseball-wise?

RK: Between the two teams?

RP: Yes.

RK: Yes, we did. But offhand, I don't know who, but, we had leagues, too.

RP: Okay, uh-huh. What position did you play?

RK: First base, baseball. Yeah.

RP: Did you have one of those big trappers gloves?

RK: Yeah. For the outfield.


RK: Yeah, so, like I said, I went through all my high school there. And I graduated there.

RP: You were also, you also were on the football team for the high school.

RK: Little bit.

RP: A little bit?

RK: Little bit, yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: Do you remember playing a football game between Manzanar High School and Big Pine?

RK: Yeah, I remember that game.

RP: And you played in that game?

RK: Yeah, a little bit.

RP: Were you kind of --

RK: That was the only time we played outside, outside of our group.

RP: Right, they came in.

RK: Yeah. Big Pine came in.

RP: Right.

RK: And we beat 'em, I think.

RP: You did.

RK: Yeah. I know we did. [Laughs]

RP: Well I talked to the guy --

RK: Big Pine is just a little school. It's just a little town, huh. So one day they had a...

RP: You didn't just beat 'em, you walloped them.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Yeah. The guy who brought the program told me that it was thirty-three to six.

RK: Yeah, well, don't forget, there were ten-thousand of us there.

RP: Yeah. What was interesting in looking through the program, there were a couple of guys from the Children's Village who were in, played on the high school team, too.

RK: Seinan, I think they were called Seinan?

RP: Yeah.

RK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Aisozaki brothers? Tamo, and I forget the other gentleman's name.

RK: Yeah.

RP: So. Do you remember anything else about that game at all?

RK: You know, I really don't. I really don't. It was a, it was just a game. It was actually more fun to just play against each other. We played tackle right on the sand. [Laughs] Didn't know any better.

RP: No pad tackle.

RK: No pad or anything. [Laughs]

RP: Chase any girls in camp?

RK: No, no hardly.

RP: No?

RK: No. But we had our... "She's nice" and all that. But no, nothing serious, no.

RP: So you didn't have a girlfriend?

RK: No. No.

RP: Did you go to dances at all?

RK: Yeah, sure. Yeah, I'd do that. That was, those were the Glenn Miller days huh? Those were the jitterbug days, yeah. Sure. In the mess hall.

RP: Speaking of mess halls, what do you remember about the mess hall that you ate at? Block 6.

RK: Not bad. Not bad. They had Japanese food and English food. So, for being there it was, it was like army style, I guess. I wasn't in the army but it probably was the army style. So it was pretty good.

RP: Did you have a certain food that, that you just avoided completely?

RK: No, I don't. I ate anything, yeah. Yeah.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: Now, what about your neighbors in Block 6? Who else was in your barrack building? Who else lived in the other rooms in your barrack?

RK: Well, right next door to us was Nakaharas.

RP: Nakaharas.

RK: There was Tomotsu, who was same age as I was.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: Shig and Joe and they had a sister.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: And Tomatsu and I, we were buddy-buddies. Because we were same, we were in the same class.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: And then on the other side there was the, the, it was Yokomizo's cousin, and they were right next to us. There was Keibo and... Kiebo and Kibo we used to call them. And the Kados were on the end. The Yokomizos were there, and then that's the girl I said that eventually married my brother. And there were, the Takayamas were there. The, in the, in the blocks, you usually stuck with the block. If you were Block 6, you sort of stuck around with the block. Gettin' old so I can't remember the names. [Laughs]

RP: Did you have any landscaping around your barrack that you can recall?

RK: Oh yeah, the, the families, they all grew things, just to make it homey-like, sure. Everybody did that.

RP: And your father was a gardener so...

RK: Well, everybody --

RP: Everybody did that.

RK: -- they had the little plot of grass, a little lawn. So they, they made it as homey as possible.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: So the first, the first Kurihara to leave the camp was, was Richard.

RK: Was Dick, Richard, yeah. Yeah, he just, he really just passed by, really. Probably with the best, the camp was probably the best thing that ever, that happened to him. There was a little bit of prejudice along the West Coast. But as soon as he applied, he got a job from camp. He got his job in Cleveland from camp.

RP: The aeronautical engineer job?

RK: Yeah. Uh-huh. So it was, probably was the best thing to happen to him. And the camp was a good experience for all of us, you know why? It spread us all over the place, especially Chicago. Especially Chicago. And those groups are still in Chicago, many of them. And the groups that went to Cleveland are still there. And many of 'em went to New York and New Jersey.

RP: How long did your, did your brother stay in Cleveland?

RK: All his life.

RP: He was there all his life?

RK: Yeah. Dick stayed there... as soon as he left he, like I say, he worked for Thompson Products and then he started his own business there. And he was there all his life. He died in Cleveland.

RP: Some of your brothers also went out on furloughs, too?

RK: All the time. Every chance they got they went. They went out on furloughs. To Idaho, Colorado, sugar beets, and cut hay, things like that. See, my wife was born and raised, their family was Colorado. They didn't have to go to camp. They didn't have to go to camp, so, they were Colorado.

RP: Did they, they were living in Colorado before the war broke out?

RK: Yeah, uh-huh.

RP: Okay. Some families left the West Coast...

RK: Oh no, no, they were always Colorado.

RP: Were always Colorado.

RK: Yeah, they came from Japan through Mexico they ended. Instead of coming West Coast, they went to Colorado. And you know Colorado still has a huge contingent of Japanese there. The Denver area.

RP: Further south, too...

RK: Yeah, Pueblo.

RP: Pueblo. Yeah. And next to go out was Kenichi. Kenichi went, you said he went ahead and continued his education in Saint Louis.

RK: Saint Louis. Saint Louis.

RP: And he became a pharmacist.

RK: Yeah, he became a pharmacist.

RP: Did he stay in Saint Louis or did he return to the...

RK: Oh, he, as soon as he graduated he, he came back. And he worked for USC Medical Center all his life. His, his whole career was... and mine, too. My career was there, too. And I'm still there. [Laughs] I'm still there.

RP: You're a...

RK: I'm a pharmacist, too.

RP: Right. Yeah.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: And your parents went out to Seabrook.

RK: Seabrook Farms, Bridgeton, New Jersey.

RP: Yeah.

RK: Great place, too.

RP: Did, did representatives of Seabrook come to Manzanar to recruit people? Do you know?

RK: I don't know. I really don't know. And Seabrook Farms, when I got there, it was just like camp, just like camp.

RP: Like, in what ways?

RK: Huh?

RK: In what way was it like camp?

RK: Oh, because you sort of lived in barracks, too. And then, and the lunch, lunch, especially the lunch part, you, you ate at the factory. So it was sort of like camp. Of course, breakfast and dinner, came home and ate at home. But, yeah, I thought I was in camp again when I visited my folks.

RP: So before... you had graduated just that, that summer, '45?

RK: Yeah, when I graduated I went to, I went to Seabrook.

RP: So you traveled with your mom to Seabrook?

RK: No, she was there already.

RP: Oh, she was there already.

RK: She was there already.

RP: Uh-huh. And your dad, according to the roster it looks like your dad went out first.

RK: First, yeah.

RP: Kind of establish things and then...

RK: Yeah. And then I spent the first summer there, '45, the first summer there. And then from there I went to Cleveland.

RP: Oh, I see.

RK: Because my brother lived in Cleveland. That's where I went to school.

RP: Did you, did you work at Seabrook during that summer?

RK: Yeah. Yes.

RP: What did you do there?

RK: Huh?

RP: What did you do at Seabrook?

RK: You know Birds Eye Frozen Food? Birds Eye? Froze a lot of foods. A lot of peas and corn.

RP: So you operated a machine? Or...

RK: We sort of packed 'em. We sorted of packed. And we were on the labeling machine, too, the canned goods. We were on that. So that's what we did. That sort of was a twenty-four hour shift, too. So you had your day shift and night shift. You work about ten hours, ten hours a shift, I remember.

RP: And did you run across other former internees from other camps who were working there?

RK: Oh yeah, sure. Sure.

RP: There were also other groups of people, like there were refugees from Europe and folks from other parts of the world that came...

RK: Were there?

RP: Yeah.

RK: Well, there were POWs there too. Prisoners of war.

RP: There were POWs there?

RK: Yeah. Uh-huh.

RP: German?

RK: Germans, yeah.

RP: Huh.

RK: They worked there, too.

RP: They actually were working in the factory?

RK: Yeah.

RP: With you?

RK: Yeah, yeah.

RP: Huh.

RK: Yeah. That was pretty fun too because you were sort of near Philadelphia and New York and when you went out, that's where you went. So, you know, so that's how I saw New York. [Laughs]

RP: What did you do in New York?

RK: We just went for the heck, fun of it. Very close.

RP: How long did your parents work at Seabrook?

RK: They worked that whole summer and through the winter and they came back that January or February. So they, they must have worked there about six months. Eight months. About eight months. Then they came back.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: You went to school... you went to Cleveland to join your brother and you said you went to school there, too?

RK: Yes.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: Yeah. Well he, I went to Case Western Reserve. Case Western Reserve University, that's what it's called. And the college I went to was Adelbert College. Within that university group, Adelbert was the college.

RP: And that was, you were working...

RK: I spent four years there.

RP: Oh, four years.

RK: Four years there. Then I transferred to Colorado and finished pharmacy school in Colorado. And that's where I met my wife.

RP: Wife.

RK: Yeah.

RP: So she didn't have a camp experience and you did?

RK: Yeah. But, it was, it was probably harder on them than it was for us. 'Cause the winters in Colorado where they lived -- they lived in the northeastern part of Colorado, a little town called Iliff -- colder, it was really cold.

RP: Not as cold as Manzanar ,though.

RK: Oh gosh, twice as cold. Twice as cold. It was really cold. And they had to milk their cows and they had cattle. They had to milk those every morning, every evening. Pick potatoes, pick the onions, husk the corn, all that. Yeah, it was a tough life boy.

RP: In Cleveland and Colorado did you experience any discrimination directed towards you?

RK: I never did. Even here we didn't. Even the Monday after Pearl Harbor, not really nothing. Cleveland no, Colorado, no. Uh-uh.

RP: So you came back to California and worked, went to work at USC?

RK: Let's see, I... yeah, I graduated Case Western Reserve in '49. And that September, I went to Colorado and I got out in '52. And I started work at USC in '52, yeah.

RP: What specifically did you do at USC? Pharmacy work?

RK: The usual pharmacy thing. Fill prescriptions...

RP: For the students. It was kind of a, it's a student pharmacy?

RK: Oh no, no.

RP: No students, no?

RK: See the L.A. County, the L.A. County Hospital is part of USC.

RP: Oh, okay.

RK: It's called USC Medical Center. But it was part of the L.A.... and I worked for the L.A. County Hospital. And I did the usual pharmacy thing there. Fill prescriptions, same, same old thing. No big deal.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: When you got back to this area here, did you renew your connection with Mammoth and did you, did you go fishing up there again?

RK: Well, I just got back last week.

RP: You did?

RK: Yeah. We go, we go skiing about every month during the wintertime. And go fishing about three or four times a month, I mean, summertime. Still do, yeah.

RP: Do you still go up to the same areas?

RK: Same area, Crowley, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake Loop. Same place.

RP: And you stop back at Manzanar on your way down?

RK: We did this time. We did, and I have, too. I've stopped there quite a few times.

RP: Are your kids, do your kids have any interest at all in your camp stories or experiences?

RK: Oh, they're interested but they don't... they're interested, that's about it.

RP: Have you gone back to Block 6?

RK: Huh?

RP: Have you gone back to Block 6?

RK: Yeah we went straight up that road. And sort of say well, this is about where we lived. Yeah.

RP: Well, hopefully this, maybe this year, we'll begin excavating the Block 6 garden.

RK: Oh, are you guys gonna do all that?

RP: I hope so.

RK: I thought you're gonna, you gonna rebuild Block 14, huh?

RP: Some of it, yeah.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Yeah. But...

RK: That's what the girl in there said.

RP: Uh-huh.

RK: We were there couple a weeks ago.

RP: Right, yeah. Hopefully we'll be... maybe next time you come up.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KP: So your parents had neighbors who took care of the house while they were in Manzanar.

RK: Yeah.

KP: So they're back in New Jersey in '45, right? Seabrook?

RK: Yeah. During all that, all that time, this family called the Vanloons, they were friends of ours from church, and they, they took care of it.

KP: Do you know if your parents were corresponding with the Vanloons at that time? I mean, how did they let them know they were coming back? Or did they, do you know?

RK: Oh yeah, sure, sure. We corresponded with them while we were in camp. Yeah, we did.

KP: So your parents always knew they had a place to come back to?

RK: Oh, yeah, yeah. We were one of the fortunate ones that we did have that house. Uh-huh. And you know, on the, all the neighbors, they, all their belongings, their furnitures and everything, they just stored it in the house. They had a, that house had a big basement. And they just stored it in there.

KP: So, so all the other Japanese families stored their items...

RK: A few of them did, not all of them.

KP: Oh, a few of them.

RK: A few of them did, yeah.

KP: Oh.

RK: Uh-huh.

RP: And then the other question I have is that, you know we talked to many, many people who went up to Manzanar or the Owens Valley and had no idea where they were going. It sounds like you were different. You had experiences...

RK: Oh no, we, we knew exactly knew where we were going. We were gonna go right near Alabama Hills. [Laughs] We even knew that.

KP: So you...

RK: Because we've been there, that's why.

KP: So you knew what to bring? What kind of clothes and all that stuff? Did you, I mean, did you think about that?

RK: Oh, yeah. We knew it was windy and we knew it was cold and we knew it was hot in summertime. Yeah. [Laughs] You know, it's windy there.

RP: Still is.

RK: Yeah. It's windy.

RP: Still is, yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RK: You know where Mount Williamson is? That's the most photographed, most painted mountain in the world, I think. Everybody painted it. [Laughs]

RP: Did you, did you hike up towards that mountain at all?

RK: We, we hiked up to the foothills, sure we did. Yeah, yeah, we sure did.

RP: Did you know of other men that, that would go up there to fish for golden trout?

RK: Not that far. Did you come across a fellow named Matsuyama? Jiro Matsuyama? See, he sort of worked for the water people, so he had access to get out.

RP: Right. Yeah, he became kind of an unofficial fishing guide.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Everybody wanted him to take them up because he had the car and he could go out whenever he wanted to.

RK: Yeah he still lives...

RP: He lives in Carpinteria.

RK: Carpinteria, yeah.

RP: Yeah, but he's one of the guys who's been, has talked about his fishing stories.

RK: Yeah. He's a big, even now, he's a big nurseryman.

RP: Uh-huh. So, when you went out to fish, did you go with some of your buddies?

RK: Yeah, well, I went out with this fellow named Tom Sano.

RP: Oh, the fisherman.

RK: The fisherman, yeah. He's the guy who used to go up there way before the war.

RP: Oh. So he would have fished some of the creeks around Manzanar, too, before the war?

RK: Oh yeah, yeah, sure he would.

RP: Interesting.

RK: But you, see, he went beyond Bishop. He went to North Lake, South Lake... the Mammoth Lake area, Owens River.

RP: You said that the guards would pretty much just let you go out of camp. Did you have to have a pass?

RK: We, we didn't have no pass.

RP: You just went out.

RK: Yeah, you sort of got friendly with the guards, huh. They'd say, "Well, come back before evening." [Laughs]

RP: Did you have any other conversations with them?

RK: All the time.

RP: Yeah?

RK: All the time. They go back and forth and talk to you. See, we were in Block 6, huh.

RP: Right near the...

RK: Yeah, right there. Yeah.

KP: What would you guys talk about? Do you remember?

RK: Anything in general, yeah.

RP: How did they seem to you? What was their attitude about being at Manzanar?

RK: Their attitude?

RP: Yeah, about what...

RK: Yeah, I really don't know. It was probably a good duty for them, huh? Better than goin' to war.

RP: [Laughs]

RK: Yeah. It really is better than going to war. It's a good duty for them.

KP: Do you remember when they stopped putting guards in the guard towers? Do you remember that?

RK: You know, I don't remember that. I know they had the guard towers. But I never knew they stopped. But that, that was a good duty, too, yeah. Nothing to do either. But I do remember the riot, though. That I remember, the riot.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: Tell us what you remember about the riot.

RK: We went up there, we... what was that about? I think it was something about food. The food wasn't good enough.

RP: Did you ever hear about a shortage of sugar?

RK: No. I really don't know, but I think it was something to do with food. And then, things... it's the sort of thing, I think it was sort of, we sort of made a lot of noise. And somebody got a little trigger happy I guess. But then, and the sister of the one boy that got killed?

RP: James Ito?

RK: James Ito. He's the brother of Florence Ito, who was a good friend of mine. We went to school together.

RP: Here in Glendale?

RK: No, in camp.

RP: In camp.

RK: Uh-huh. And she married a friend of mine. Name was Okamuro. They live in Torrance now.

RP: We just interviewed a gentleman yesterday who said he was right there at the side of James Ito when the shots were fired. And one of the other, the other daughter of James was Martha Ito. And so -- yeah sister -- so her, her daughter was there yesterday and they were talking about James and the whole situation. So you were actually down there at...

RK: Yeah, we were actually down there. They were get... you gotta do something. So you go down there and see what's going on. [Laughs]

RP: So do you remember a lot of yelling or people singing or...

RK: Well, we heard the shots and we took off, man. That's what I remember. [Laughs]

RP: Where were you in the crowd? Were you in the back or the side or...

RK: Oh, we were in the back. We were in the back. Yeah, if I remember, I think it had something to do with the food. That's all I remember.

RP: And you took off. And what, headed back to your, to your barrack?

RK: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

RP: And what was the camp like after the riot? Do you remember any changes?

RK: I don't remember any changes, I really don't. I don't remember any changes. I don't think it got any stricter or anything else. In our graduation even, graduation was a great time because the whole camp was there. It wasn't just the school, the whole camp was at graduation.

RP: The whole auditorium was full.

RK: Yeah, sure it was full.

RP: How did you feel walking in there with your cap and gown and...

RK: Finally made it. Other than that, same old thing.

RP: Did you have a party afterward or...

RK: I don't recall.

RP: What else do you remember doing in the auditorium? Besides the graduation, did you go in there for other events or activities?

RK: Well, they had dances in there. Yeah. They had movies in there. They had, usually had movies in the firebreaks, but they had them in there, too. Other than that, no.

RP: So you, you didn't know James Ito personally, did you?

RK: No, no I didn't. But I know his sister real well. 'Cause she married a friend of mine.

RP: You knew her later on or did you...

RK: Yeah, later on.

RP: Okay. So how do you see your camp experience as you look back now?

RK: As I look back, quite fondly. I was a kid and I didn't lose anything. And I met a lot of people that I wouldn't have, and we sort of had fun. Well, it's sort of harsh, you had to go out for your bathroom and things like... but other than that it was, it was an experience.

RP: And you have attended some of the school, high school reunions over the years?

RK: Oh, yeah. Well, most of 'em I have. And that too, huh? That bond is still there. How many schools have a reunion every year like we do?

RP: Good point.

RK: Yeah.

RP: Kirk, do you have any questions?

KP: No.

RP: Do you have anything else you'd like to add to our interview, Rok?

RK: Yeah, I could say that camp experience was not as bad as everybody say it is. For us, the younger generation at that time, it was a good experience. It really, we sort of broadened ourselves. And it certainly dispersed the people, too. We were just along the coast and then Japanese were all over, all over the United States. So in that respect it was good. We had more opportunity after that, for sure. That's about it.

RP: Thank you, Rok...

RK: Oh yeah, sure.

RP: ...for participating in our interview today and we appreciate your time.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.