Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Isao Kikuchi
Narrator: Isao Kikuchi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 15, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kisao-01-0002

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RP: Can you share some of, with us, some of your family background, about your father, whatever you recall about his life in Japan before coming to America?

IK: Well, I admired my father, who -- I don't know much of his life in Japan, but I know that he came here and studied with an English-Japanese dictionary and went to SC and became a dentist. I thought that was pretty darn good. I'd never do it.

RP: Where did he come from in Japan?

IK: Can't think of the name... it was near Kyoto. Doggone it, it's, he's... I can't think of the name just offhand.

RP: Do you know how old he was when he came to America?

IK: No, I would just have to guess, but he came about 1918 I would guess, somewhere in that vicinity.

RP: Did he ever share with you whether he had plans to return to Japan after...

IK: No. He, he didn't... no, had no dreams of returning to Japan, to my knowledge.

RP: This was his country.

IK: Yes. 'Cause he went through quite a bit, I thought, not knowing English at all, so I thought he did very well.

RP: Right, 'cause for an Issei, not very many learned English, but he had a, like, he had a very strong idea of what he wanted to do with his life in America.

IK: Not quite. I think, I believe he originally wanted to be a bookkeeper, and I don't know why he quit in that, but it ended up dentistry. And he had worked as a bookkeeper in San Diego someplace for a while and I guess he tried other little things, but it ended up at SC.

RP: You know how he was able to finance his education?

IK: No, as far as I know he dug it out all by himself, because he was the oldest of the Kikuchis in Japan and his father was quite a important fellow from what he said. He tried to start a distillery or something for sake and he went broke with that. He went broke with other business, so... I guess, I guess originally they planned to have him, my father, come to America, make his fortune and go back to Japan, 'cause he being responsible for the Kikuchi clan at the time. But his brothers were kind of mad that he left, because he was supposed to take over the clan. And that's about the only thing I know the personal part of his life in Japan.

RP: What do you remember most about your father as a person and a father?

IK: That's... well, what I know of him, he was an athlete, in between times, because he played golf, and I don't know when he learned that. He sliced all over the place. And we played a little tennis and all the family growing up, he took my sister all over the place for singing lessons and horseback riding lessons and things like that. I sat on the fences and watched. But he was quite active, socially active, because he helped form the Japan-American Society and also the M.E. church in Los Angeles. He helped found that. So he was quite active, and... I didn't know a heck of a lot about it. I was too young to be interested.

RP: Did he have any creative outlets, as well?

IK: My father? Yes, he, I think all dentists are frustrated artists because they, every dentist I know and his friends sketched some or carved some or did creative things. And my father, I had to give him an oil painting set so, to keep him interested. He took that on the trips and stopped the car, sketch in the car, during the trip or something. But he didn't do an awful lot of that, but he did try.

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