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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

KP: So aside from, when did you get involved, first get involved with Scouts? What grade were you in? Do you remember?

AO: I was twelve years old. When I was twelve.

KP: What other, any other activities at school or in the community you participated in?

AO: Let's see, activities...

KP: Sports or things like that?

AO: No. I wasn't... [laughs]. Lowell High School coach asked me to come in one day and do some high jumping, and I guess he was, I didn't pass.

KP: Did you ever get involved in any of the Japanese sports like judo or kendo or anything like that?

AO: Oh yeah. Sure, I did take judo. Yeah.

KP: For how long did you do that?

AO: Maybe a couple of years.

KP: What'd you think of that?

AO: I enjoyed that. The reason why I started it was there was a friend of mine and one day he, we were fooling around and he, he was taking judo then, and he threw me over, so I decided, wow, I got to take that, too. And that's how I started jujitsu. Yeah.

KP: What were your favorite subjects in school?

AO: Sort of tended to go into math, and they had a drafting class. I enjoyed that, at Lowell High School. And they had a crafts group, too. You had woodshop, sheet metal shop, and machine shop, and I enjoyed those.

KP: So what did, did your father spend most of that time period you were growing up working in, at a restaurant, or did his job change?

AO: No, no, he started to work for homes, washing windows and doing some cooking, things like that.

KP: And it sounds like education was part of your family upbringing. Who encouraged you to go on to the university?

AO: I don't know. I just wanted to go. Oh, you mean who encouraged me?

KP: Yeah.

AO: I don't know. I guess it was -- oh, there was one teacher in junior high school that really was good as far as I'm concerned. He was a math teacher, and I remember the quadratic equation that he presented to us. I was impressed with that. Yeah, Mr., what was his name? Gee, until just recently I remembered his name. Mr. ... that's okay.

KP: So anything else stand out about those prewar days in Japantown in San Francisco? People?

AO: We used, Fourth of July, we used to, fireworks was not, was discouraged, but there used to be a couple of Chinese restaurants in Japantown and a fellow'd sit outside and I'd go up to him, says, "How's about some firecrackers?" [Laughs] And we had, like, parades when, I think it was, let's see, one of the emperor's family came over and we sort of celebrated that. He rode in a wagon up and down Post Street. We had all kinds of shops, too, like sweet shops where they made those cookies almost like... yeah, I remember it was a machine that poured batter and then formed the cookies. And barber shops, of course, and dry goods stores, bookstores, and on Geary Street there was a tackle shop. And I could see from my backyard when he was out there practicing casting.

KP: So aside from your trip up to the Russian River with the Scouts, did you ever travel much outside of the area where you grew up? Did your family ever go on vacations or anything?

AO: No. No, we didn't go on vacations, extended vacations. Yeah, we didn't travel much in those days. My father had a car, but we didn't go very far.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.