Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Art Okuno Interview
Narrator: Art Okuno
Interviewer: Kirk Peterson
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Date: September 1, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-oart-01-0001

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KP: Alright, today is Tuesday, the 1st of September, 2009. We are at Main Street Station Hotel Casino in Las Vegas for the Heart Mountain Reunion, and today we are interviewing Art Okuno and this interview will be archived at the Manzanar National Historic Site as part of our oral history collection. And do we have your permission to do an interview with you today?

AO: Yes.

KP: Thank you very much. And is it okay if I call you Art?

AO: Yes. [Laughs]

KP: Okay. Good place to start. Well, let's start by starting with you. That's weird, I guess, hope it was the door across the aisle and not mine. When and where were you born? What year?

AO: September 15, 1921, in San Francisco, California.

KP: Okay. Were you born at home or in a hospital? Do you know?

AO: We had a midwife. Yeah. Next door, in fact.

KP: What were your parents doing at that time? What kind of work were, was your father doing?

AO: Well, my mother didn't work. My father, at that time he was like, used to go to homes and clean.

KP: So you folks were living in the town of San Francisco itself?

AO: Yes, I was living in Webster, 1530 Webster Street in San Francisco. Between Geary and Post.

KP: What do you know about your father? What, first of all, what was his name?

AO: His name was Tojiro Okuno.

KP: And do you know where he came from in Japan?

AO: Yeah. It's Osaka-fu. It's the southern part of Osaka, near Wakayama.

KP: And do you know what the family business was there?

AO: It was, they were farmers, they had a small plot of land.

KP: And where was your dad in the number, or the number of kids?

AO: I believe he was the second one. The first brother came over to United States and he had a shop in Chinatown, so he called his two other brothers over to the United States. And that was my father and uncle, my uncle.

KP: Do you remember the name of your uncles?

AO: Let's see, Naozo.

KP: Was that the one with the shop or was that the brother who came?

AO: No, that's his name.

KP: Okay. And what year did, approximately, did your father come over to the United States?

AO: Let's see, I was born in '21, so I think he came over about early 2000 or late 1900s, in that period, because he came here and then he went back to Japan to get married. Then they both came over.

KP: Do you know what year approximately your father was born?

AO: [Laughs] Gee.

KP: Gosh, that's the hard stuff.

AO: I don't remember.

KP: Alright, well, we don't need to know that. So he came to this country to work in your uncle's shop.

AO: Yes.

KP: What did, what did your uncle sell? What kind of shop was that in Chinatown?

AO: I think it was, I don't know exactly, but I think it was, like, oriental goods. He imported it and then sold them. That's my understanding, anyway.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.