Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Toshiro Izumi Interview
Narrator: Toshiro Izumi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: March 2, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ftakayo-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: One other holiday that I wanted to mention because it's so important in Japanese culture is New Year's.

TI: New Year's, uh-huh.

RP: And how do you remember that being celebrated when you were growing up?

TI: Well, New Year's the family made osushi and you know, a lot of goodies. And the elderly fathers, they all visited their friends' home. And they'd go to one home and they were always served sake in the small sakazuki. And I guess that was enough to get them drunk. But another tradition that they had was when they came to your house they always had a little money with them and they'd give money to each of the kids. So if enough family came, friend came to your home, you had a pocket full of coins at the end of the day.

RP: You did pretty well.

TI: Wealthy, yes.

RP: Kind of along those lines or, particularly in the 1930s you know when prohibition was in effect, people found ways to get alcohol or make it.

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: And I guess the fact that your father and, and other fathers who were fishermen on Terminal Island had a really, it was kind of a rough life out on the boats. But there would be that time during the full moon when they would be in port mending the nets but also kind of kicking up their heels a little bit too.

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: What do you recall about that?

TI: Well, being the kid, things like that never bothered me much. But, yeah, we saw people staggering on the streets but I didn't think it was that bad.

RP: Did your dad make sake or your mom make sake?

TI: Yeah, uh-huh. They made, they had a home brew, uh-huh, sake. I think every family did. But, like I always tell my brothers and sisters, that it was only for their own consumption, you know. They weren't selling it or anything.

RP: What would happen though, during Prohibition, when the word got out that the feds were coming?

TI: Oh, yeah, I recall some time when, when that news got out, why, my mother would dump everything in the toilet and flush it. [Laughs] After all the work she had making sake, why, they had to dump it.

RP: We were just talking about how you obtained housing and how it was organized according to canneries. Can you share with us what that housing was like? What was your home like?

TI: Well, it was, if you can call it, nothing but a barrack. It had, well, walls and not like the barrack we had in camp. Those were, you can see the studs, you know. But these houses at least had walls, interior walls. But, well, one thing that's a little different was most of the houses had ofuro. And it was a square tub that they filled up with hot water. I think that that's the custom of the Japanese people. They'd undress, wash themselves outside, and then they'd get into the ofuro and they soaked themselves real well. And I believe that's one of the enjoyment they had.

RP: So every house had one of those?

TI: Yes, I believe they did, uh-huh. These were company-owned houses but they had the ofuro, uh-huh. And I hadn't seen the American-style tub, you know, until we left Terminal Island.

RP: So how many rooms did you have in your house?

TI: Well, this house of ours had a kitchen, bathroom, and I think about two bedrooms. But this is just half of a house. So the other half had the same amount.

RP: Oh, so there was another family?

TI: Yeah, another family.

RP: Right next to you?

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: And who was that family? Do you remember them?

TI: Pardon?

RP: Do you remember the family that lived next to you?

TI: No. We were there a long time so we had almost the whole house to ourselves. But I think the fishermen or the Japanese people on the whole enjoyed the furo. They just loved to soak them self in that hot, hot water.

RP: How about you?

TI: Yeah, I liked it too.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.