Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Nellie Mitani Interview
Narrator: Nellie Mitani
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Pasadena, California
Date: February 5, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mnellie-01-0026

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: What was, what was your state of mind like when you finally found out that you were gonna be leaving Gila and heading home?

NM: Well, I probably was very happy to hear that news. But the question was, where will I go? My family was south of there so of course we went there. But, a lot of these people didn't know how, where they were going to go back to because whatever they had were taken away or rented out already and they couldn't just move right back home. But, I guess the, in that respect I was fortunate 'cause I was able to move out and go directly to the family's home. But many of the others had to go to an interim place I guess you call it where they had this wait until they could find a place to live. So they had all these centers where people would initially go.

RP: Hostels.

NM: More like probably the men of the family or heads of the family lived there temporarily. But I didn't have that experience.

RP: Tell us a little bit about your father. Had, he was a very ingenious man and somewhat of an inventor, too. And, he came up with a patent for, for some sort of a building style. Can you explain that a little bit?

NM: Yes well, he was always interested in building, in building buildings. Like the Japanese school a long time before and the church, Methodist church community, the Japanese church. He was instrumental in getting that built and then also some of the homes that we had, lived in, he built and adobe house for us to live in at one place. And so he was sort of interested in this type of work. And then finally, during the war, he was thinking of all the fires in Japan and he said, well there, that's because the houses are built out of wood. And so he got to thinking and thought, well, it needs to be concrete. And so in his spare early morning moments he sort of, I guess, figured out in his head more or less how to do all of this. And, decided on, or figured out how to make concrete houses that could be built by maybe just a couple of people in about a week. And so that's what he did. He accomplished the fact. And he built houses in Oxnard and Japan.

RP: Can you tell us about the house he built in Japan?

NM: The house that he built for himself, for him to live in, I guess he built as a sample and it was... the original forms could build a two bedroom house, kitchen and a living room, sort of a square building. But, the one in Japan he combined the forms and, and built a sixteen room, two-story building. On a rock actually. A very, very small island but it was a rock so when he built the house it covered the whole rock. When the tide came up all you could see was a floating house. So I have the picture there.


RP: [Showing a photograph] Can you tell us about this house? Where is it?

NM: This is in, in Kumamoto. And it's Matsushima Bay in Amakusa.

RP: And this is the house that your, that your father built --

NM: Yes, he built that.

RP: -- out of concrete.

NM: Yes, using his forms, yeah.

RP: And what were the forms made out of, Nellie?

NM: Metal. Metal and aluminum. Metal reinforcement, steel reinforcement and aluminum plates.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.