Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Tamiko Honda Interview
Narrator: Tamiko Honda
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Redwood City, California
Date: April 15, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-htamiko-01-0001

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RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This afternoon we're talking with Tamiko Nakano?

TH: Honda.

RP: Honda? Honda. And Tamiko resides at 306 East Oakwood Boulevard in Redwood City, California. Date of our interview is April 15, 2010, interviewer is Kirk -- I'm sorry -- Richard Potashin, videographer is Kirk Peterson. And Tamiko will share her experiences and stories as an internee at the Topaz War Relocation Center during World War II, as well as her experiences before and afterwards. Our interview will be archived in the Park's library, and Tamiko, do I have permission to go ahead and record our interview?

TH: Yes.

RP: And can I refer to you as Tami?

TH: Tami, yes. All my friends know me as Tami.

RP: Then that's what I want to refer to you as. Tami, thank you for sharing this time with us. And first of all, we want to talk a little bit about your family background, and especially you. Can you give us your date of birth and where you were born?

TH: September 14, 1924, Santa Clara, California.

RP: And what was your given name at birth?

TH: It's very unusual. My birth certificate reads: "Thomasine Tamiko Nakano, September 14, 1924," I think I mentioned that before.

RP: Thomasine, huh?

TH: Yes. There's a long story that goes with it, but that's okay, that's another story.

RP: And were you, were you born in a hospital or at home?

TH: I think I was born at home with a midwife in attendance.

RP: Tell us a little bit about your father, first his name.

TH: My father's name is Hajime Nakano, and he was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1897.

RP: And his father originally came to the United States?

TH: Yes. His father, Ichitaro Nakano, went to Hawaii to labor in the (sugar cane) fields. And that was on a contract basis and it was for three years. He did his three years, then decided to come to the United States instead of returning to Japan, 'cause Japan was in a deep recession then. And he saw a future in U.S.A.

RP: And where did he settle in the United States when he first arrived here?

TH: He came to Santa Clara, California. I don't know why he chose Santa Clara, but he's been in that area since. Unfortunately, my grandfather died in 1915, just a year after my father came from Japan with his mother.

RP: They came in 1914 and he passed away in 1915?

TH: Uh-huh.

RP: Was your father an only son or did he have other siblings?

TH: He was actually the first son of the first son of the first son. And at that time it was unusual for first sons to leave Japan, but he did come.

RP: And do you know roughly how old he was when he came with his mother?

TH: He was seventeen years old.

RP: And his father, you mentioned, settled in Santa Clara. Was he involved in farming at that time?

TH: Yes. He was working as a... mainly an orchardist. He was quite proficient at pruning fruit trees, and so at that time, Santa Clara Valley was noted for its fruit trees. And so he had a lot to, a lot of work.

RP: And your father was involved in the same type of work?

TH: Yes. When my father came at seventeen years old, his father said, "You must learn English." And so my father went to work as a houseboy, and at that time it was quite common for young people who want to learn English to live with a American family, learn their customs, and he did go to night school. But unfortunately, when he was nineteen, his younger brother, who was born after they came to the U.S., he was, he had to take care of him because his own father died. And so my father raised this baby as his own, but he was really his brother, eighteen years apart.


RP: Your father, you said, was about seventeen when he came, and he... he was encouraged to learn English.

TH: Yes.

RP: And was taken in as a houseboy by an American family. And then later on he had a, sort of a responsibility thrust upon him?

TH: Yes, raising his younger brother and taking care of his mother. And so he worked very hard, but he spoke English and wrote English.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.