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-01-0004

<Begin Segment 4>

KP: Did you attend Japanese language school?

AO: Yes. This was after regular school, about three-thirty, I think. Went there for a couple hours every week, every day. Every weekday. And most of us, most of the Niseis, second generation, hated Japanese school. [Laughs] But I was the exception. I enjoyed learning Japanese. Yeah, I was really into it.

KP: How far did you get, do you remember which book you got to?

AO: Yeah. I was up to, like the, I was reading some of the... you know, girls, they have a girls' book, too, and, which was like high school level, and I was starting to read that and able to understand what was written. Yeah. And another thing is when I go to the bookstores I would see all these Japanese books and they had various levels, elementary and advanced, so I could go in there and read and see the comics and that's, that aroused my interest. And in those books they, those days, they used to have construction things. You could build the scenery of one of famous areas in Japan or a castle, out of paper. Just cut it out and assemble it. Yeah, I enjoyed doing that, too.

Off camera: Do you have any memory of the celebration of Tanabata or Shichi-go-san?

AO: No, not too much. No, or even Bon Odori. No, I wasn't involved.

KP: So in your, your family, at home you spoke what language?

AO: Let's see, well, half, I guess a quarter, well half-half, I guess, Japanese and English.

KP: Were your parents able to converse in English?

AO: Yeah, they understood what I was saying, and if they didn't I would try to explain in Japanese, if I could.

KP: So you grew up in a Japantown.

AO: Yes.

KP: Were there other ethnicities around that you interacted with, other languages aside from English?

AO: Yeah, there were, across the street there were, like, Caucasians, but, and a few black families, but I never interacted with them. We sort of kept to our own.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.