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-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

KP: So what are your first memories of San Francisco, and what part of San Francisco, you said you were living on Webster Street?

AO: Yes. It was so called Japantown. The Post Street was the main street in Japantown. All the shops are there, around there. Barber shop...

KP: What were your first memories of that part of San Francisco?

AO: First memories, well, it was just around the corner, so we used to go shopping in the grocery stores, and I liked to go to bookstores. They had two bookstores and you could go in there and just browse through the magazines and books. That was one of my favorite pastimes. And the other memory I have is of my Boy Scout activities. I joined a troop, Troop 12, which is now one of the oldest troops in San Francisco, in 1960, '62, I think, was... and then I received my Eagle badge in Troop 12. We had a drum and bugle corps and, and we participated in the International Festival they had at Treasure Island. We were part of the parade. And we went traveling, too, to perform, like Turlock. And my most fond memory is the week we took off to go camping, the troop. We go to Russian River and there was a farmer there that let us camp there, by the river, so we pitch up our tents and, and had our activities. And the older members of the troop were the cooks. So we had to do everything, put in the pump for water and pitch our tents and slept on cots. So each patrol had a tent and we had around five tents, and by that time I was a patrol leader of a tent.

KP: And we'll, we'll get back to your work with the Scouts when we get into Heart Mountain.

AO: Okay.

KP: But right, right now let's go back and focus a little bit on Japantown, and where did you go to school?

AO: The grammar school was San Raphael. Well, actually, when I first started, the elementary school was further away from Japantown, but then this new school was built right close, couple blocks away, which was Raphael, and it's still there. And I finished my elementary school there then went to John Swift Junior High School, which is on Golden Gate, and that's still there. And then I went to Lowell High School when it was in the Haight-Ashbury district. Then I went to UC Berkeley, before evacuation.

KP: What, growing up, what sort of activities did you participate in, in that community? Did you attend a church? Did your family go to a church?

AO: My family were Buddhist and the only time they attended was when there were special events, like funerals. That was it. They were not regular attendees, but my church was a reformed church on Post Street, and it was just around the corner, so I used to attend, pretty faithful attending.

KP: What about, what sort of holidays did you celebrate? Did you celebrate any of the Japanese holidays, boys, girls, Boy's Day, Girl's Day, things like that? Do remember any of that?

AO: Yeah. Special event was New Year's and it coincides with the Western New Year's, but I remember that my father would take me around to their friends and we'd go there, eat, talk and then go to another place, eat, talk. And each family had a spread, for the, I remember that.

Off camera: Did you have any decorations for New Year's?

AO: Nothing in particular, except the, the emphasis was on food and drinking.

KP: Do you remember any special foods that you only got that time of year?

AO: Yeah. They used to make trays full of different foods, about five trays. That was a treat. Then they have a special fish they use. [To someone off camera] What was that fish, New Year's?

Off camera: Tai.

AO: Kai. No, not kai.

Off camera: Tai.

AO: Tai. Yeah, tai.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.