Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kaz Kinoshita Interview
Narrator: Kaz Kinoshita
Interviewer: Masako Hinatsu
Location: Gresham, Oregon
Date: March 20, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-kkaz-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MH: This is an interview with Kazuo Kinoshita, a Nisei man, eighty-nine years old, at Fairlawn Good Samaritan Village at House Center, Gresham, Oregon, March 20, 2003. The interviewer is Masako Hinatsu for the oral history project 2003, Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. Kaz, where were you born?

KK: I was born in Gresham, Oregon, 1914.

MH: And who was your father?

KK: Tsukuji Kinoshita.

MH: And your mother?

KK: Kizue.

MH: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

KK: Two brothers and one sister.

MH: What were their names?

KK: Yoshio and Masao is the brother.

MH: And your sister's name?

KK: Mary Hisako.

MH: And she's married to whom?

KK: Married to Nobi Hasegawa.

MH: What did your father do?

KK: Farming.

MH: And your mother, what did she do?

KK: Worked on the farm. She worked on the farm along with him.

MH: And who took care of the children? Did she take care of the children too?

KK: Yeah.

MH: What do you remember of your family life? Did you go on picnics?

KK: Yeah.

MH: You told me your father built an ofuro. What is an ofuro?

KK: It's a bathhouse.

MH: And where was it?

KK: In back of the house.

MH: Who was responsible for taking care of the ofuro?

KK: My mother.

MH: What did she do?

KK: Built a fire underneath it.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MH: Did you speak English in your home?

KK: No.

MH: How about with your brothers and sisters?

KK: That was English but spoke Japanese with the folks.

MH: Did you attend Japanese school?

KK: I did.

MH: Where did you attend Japanese school?

KK: Montavilla, Oregon.

MH: And how come in Montavilla and not in Gresham?

KK: That was the only one that was available at that time.

MH: Was there a Japanese school later on?

KK: Yeah, there was.

MH: And where was that?

KK: Gresham.

MH: In Gresham. And what was it called?

KK: Not Gresham. Gresham Japanese School, I guess.

MH: It was in the, Gresham/Troutdale Hall they called it. Were there other things that you did besides go to Japanese school and regular school?

KK: No.

MH: No? Did they offer judo or kendo?

KK: There was judo at Montavilla, Montavilla Japanese School, kendo at Gresham Japanese School.

MH: Did you ever go to any tournament?

KK: I went to Seattle for kendo tournament.

MH: And who took you there?

KK: I went on a bus.

MH: You went on the bus. What happened to this GT Hall?

KK: GT Hall was, it was a fire hazard, so they had to tear it down.

MH: And when was that?

KK: I don't remember.

MH: You don't remember. Maybe about twenty years ago. Did they own the building?

KK: Yeah.

MH: Your father was quite prominent in Gresham. He held an office with the GT Nikkeijinkai. What was that?

KK: Japanese, group of Japanese Issei.

MH: And he was the treasurer?

KK: He was the treasurer at that time.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MH: Where did you go to grade school?

KK: I started Gresham grade school 1920 and then I --

MH: And then you went to what high school?

KK: I was going to Gresham High School.

MH: Were your friends mostly Caucasian or were they Japanese Americans?

KK: Well, Japanese American.

MH: What do you remember or do you remember any racial prejudice while you were going to school?

KK: No.

MH: Have you kept up with any of your classmates?

KK: I have one.

MH: You talked about a teacher that you have seen for a long time. What was her name?

KK: Ella Pfeiffer. She was in Alexandria, Virginia.

MH: She lived in Virginia, and did you go to see her in Virginia?

KK: Every time I went to see my daughter back east, we took her to dinner, lunch. We only had lunch together.

MH: So whenever you went back to see your daughter, you also saw Miss Pfeiffer.

KK: Yeah.

MH: Is she still living?

KK: Huh?

MH: Is she still --

KK: No. She passed away several years -- fairly recent.

MH: When you were going to high school or you are high school age, did you date? Did you go on a date?

KK: No.

MH: What did you do, you know? If you didn't go on a date, did you play ball or what did you do for recreation?

KK: I had to go home and work.

MH: You worked. So you worked on the farm with your dad?

KK: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MH: So after the war, I mean not after the war but after you graduated from high school, you worked on the farm, and what did you do?

KK: Had to take over the management.

MH: Did you go with your dad to sell the produce?

KK: First I did.

MH: What did they raise, or what did you raise?

KK: Vegetables, carrots, cauliflower, strawberries, blackberries.


MH: Who harvested the produce?

KK: We had to hire.

MH: You hired people. Who did the hiring?

KK: Dad did the hiring.

MH: Your dad did the hiring. Did you own the land?

KK: No. We bought the land after the lease expired.

MH: You bought the land, and when did you buy the land?

KK: 1930...

MH: '38?

KK: Yeah, '38.

MH: And was it bought in your name or your dad's name or what?

KK: In my name.

MH: How come in your name and not in your dad's name?

KK: Well, he's an alien, couldn't own land at the time.

MH: All right. What did you think of that, that your dad couldn't own the land? Did you think that was right?

KK: No, that was wrong.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MH: When did you meet your wife, Amy?

KK: What was that?

MH: When did you meet your wife, Amy?

KK: September.

MH: About 1940? How did you meet her?

KK: Through a friend.

MH: Through a friend, a good friend of yours?

KK: No, good friend of the family.

MH: Good friend of the family. So was he an Issei man who introduced you?

KK: An Issei.

MH: And that's what they used to call what, when people met and hope they would get together and get married, what do they call that?

KK: Baishakunin.

MH: Baishakunin. Where did Amy live? Where did she live?

KK: I live in Gresham.

MH: When you first met her, where did she live?

KK: She lived in Nahcotta, Washington.

MH: In Washington. Where in Washington?

KK: Maybe just ten miles north of Long Beach, Washington.

MH: Okay. So on the coast close to Oysterville.

KK: Yeah.

MH: Well, did you date her from Gresham to Oysterville? Did you date her?

KK: No. Well, more or less, I guess.

MH: Did you go visit her?

KK: Yeah.

MH: How did you visit her?

KK: I went out there with my car.

MH: You had a car? What kind of car did you have?

KK: Chrysler.

MH: A Chrysler. And when you got there, what did you do with her?

KK: We were on the peninsula, we rode the peninsula.

MH: You went up the peninsula, drove around, go see a movie?

KK: Yeah.

MH: Did you stay overnight? I mean, it's a long ways to go.

KK: Yeah. I stayed overnight.

MH: When you got married, where did you get married?

KK: In a Buddhist church.

MH: In the Buddhist church here --

KK: Portland.

MH: In Portland and who was the minister at that time?

KK: Reverend Derek.

MH: Did you have a traditional Japanese marriage or did you have an American wedding?

KK: No. It was Americanized. It was Americanized.

MH: Did you have a party afterwards?

KK: Yeah, we did.

MH: And where was the party at?

KK: Ishigikki.

MH: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MH: After you got married, shortly after that, the war started. What were you doing when World War II started?

KK: I was harvesting cauliflower.

MH: You were harvesting cauliflower. What did you think of that? What did you think of the war? Did it scare you? How did you feel? Kaz, how did you feel when the war started?

KK: I couldn't understand why Japan would attack Pearl Harbor.

MH: Wondered why. Shortly after, you got orders to leave your home, your farm. What happened to your farm? What did you do with the farm before you left?

KK: We rented the farm to a local dairyman.

MH: And what was his name?

KK: Ganmine.

MH: Okay. So he was a dairy farmer.

KK: Yeah.

MH: Did he pay you rent?

KK: He paid the rent.

MH: How much did you get for it?

KK: Not too much.

MH: Not too much. What do you mean by not too much? You remember?

KK: No, I don't.

MH: Where did you go when you were ordered to evacuate?

KK: Portland Assembly Center.

MH: Portland Assembly Center. What did you think of the assembly center?

KK: I thought it was terrible, smell.

MH: How did you get to the Portland Assembly Center?

KK: Went on a school bus.

MH: Did you meet somewhere or did the school bus --

KK: We met at Gresham High School.

MH: At the high school. At the time you told me that Amy was pregnant; is that right?

KK: Yeah.

MH: Did they have doctors at the assembly center?

KK: Yeah, they did.

MH: And did she go to these doctors? What did you do in the assembly center?

KK: I volunteered to be a fireman in the fire patrol.

MH: You were on the fire patrol. Did you get paid for doing that?

KK: Yeah, I think so.

MH: How much?

KK: I forgot.

MH: Somebody said around nine dollars.

KK: Nine dollars, yeah, it could be.

MH: Now did you eat as a family in the assembly center?

KK: We all ate at the mess hall there.

MH: Did your mom and dad live with you at the assembly center?

KK: No.

MH: You had your own.

KK: Yeah, our own.

MH: Okay. For recreation, what did you do at the assembly center?

KK: Play horseshoe.

MH: Played horseshoe. You were there all summer?

KK: All summer, yeah.

MH: And what happened after that?

KK: We were transferred to Minidoka, Idaho.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MH: How did you get to Minidoka?

KK: On the train.

MH: On a train. Your wife was pregnant at the time. Did she go on the train with you?

KK: Yeah.

MH: They gave her a different place in the train than you did?

KK: No. No. We were together on the train.

MH: She had a sleeper though. Was she in a sleeper?

KK: No. Regular.

MH: In the regular, you sat like the rest of them.

KK: Yeah.


MH: You took the train to Minidoka. What did you think of Minidoka?

KK: I thought it was a desert.

MH: It's like a desert. Was it hot, cold or what?

KK: Hot and windy. Wind would blow the dust all over, a storm.

MH: What block did you live in?

KK: Thirty-two, thirty-four.

MH: Now you said Amy was pregnant at the time. How did you get her to see the doctor? You didn't have a car, did you?

KK: We always call the ambulance.

MH: They had an ambulance in camp, and you called them. Was it a regular ambulance? What kind of ambulance was it?

KK: A regular army --

MH: It's an army ambulance.

KK: Yeah.

MH: So she had her first, your first child in camp. How many children do you have?

KK: Three.

MH: Three.

KK: Two were born in camp, and one was born after we got back to Gresham.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MH: What did you do in camp? Did you have a job?

KK: Well, they were looking for dump truck drivers, so I volunteered to drive a dump truck to haul coal.

MH: Haul coal. How come coal?

KK: Well, they needed somebody to drive -- somebody to haul coal. I volunteered to drive a coal truck, I mean a dump truck.

MH: And what did you do with the coal?

KK: There was a different block.

MH: Drove it to every block. Why did you drive it to every block?

KK: That is what I was supposed to do.

MH: What did they use the coal for?

KK: It was used in the kitchen and our barracks. There were potbelly stoves.

MH: So they used it to heat the barracks.

KK: Yeah.

MH: Everybody had a pot belly stove? Did you go with Amy to see the doctor in the ambulance?

KK: Yeah, one time.

MH: You did one time. And what happened?

KK: I wanted to go because I had a stomachache.

MH: And did you tell the doctor you had a stomachache?

KK: I told him I want something for a stomachache, and then the doctor thought, think I better take -- better test my, take my blood count and the blood count was way high, so they put me in emergency. I had appendicitis operation right there.

MH: In camp, you had --

KK: Yeah.

MH: Appendectomy. What happened to Amy then?

KK: She went home.

MH: They just sent her home? Did she know that you were going to be there?

KK: No.

MH: How did you let her know?

KK: They went to call her.

MH: So after your stay in the hospital, you went back to your block house?

KK: I was there for two weeks in the hospital.

MH: So when you went back home which was Block 34, did you go back to your old job?

KK: No.

MH: How come? How come you didn't go back to your old job?

KK: I had to lift. I couldn't lift, so --

MH: So did you get another job?

KK: I looked for an easy job, and I was looking for assistant schoolteacher. They told me that's an easy job.

MH: You became a schoolteacher.

KK: Assistant.

MH: Assistant. And what grade were you an assistant?

KK: Sixth grade.

MH: Sixth grade. Do you remember any of your students?

KK: Two.

MH: Okay. Who were they?

KK: Alice Ando, Larry Murahashi, Mary Sato. I think a Jean Takashiwa.

MH: So some of those, some of your students still live here in Portland?

KK: Yeah, they do.

MH: Do they tease you about that?

KK: Yeah, they do.

MH: Did you like teaching school or helping teach school?

KK: I thought that was hard work.

MH: It was hard work. Why was it hard work?

KK: You had to correct paper. You had to correct paper at nighttime and get ready for, prepare for tomorrow.

MH: So how long did you teach or was an assistant to the teacher?

KK: Probably about one year.

MH: For a whole year. Well, that was quite an experience for you then.

KK: It sure was.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MH: When did you come back to Portland?

KK: 1945.

MH: In 1945 you brought your family back, and you had two small children. How about your mom and dad?

KK: They had returned earlier.

MH: They left earlier. Where did you come? Where did you go to?

KK: They were living in the farm.

MH: Did you ever leave camp to go out and work or anything?

KK: Yeah, I did. I worked in Northern Idaho, and I worked in Eden, Idaho.

MH: Eden? And what did you do?

KK: I was pruning the apples trees.

MH: Did you harvest anything?

KK: I harvested, I stayed there all summer, so I harvested peaches, apples.

MH: Where did you stay in Eden? Did they have a house for you?

KK: No. They had a labor camp, labor camp.

MH: And who did the cooking?

KK: They had a cook for the labor camp.

MH: So you came back to Gresham in 1945 back to the farm, and what kind of condition was the farm in?

KK: See it was a dairy farm, so they raised hay. It was okay. Raised hay so they had all kind of weeds all year come up. We had a lot of work to do.

MH: When you first started working for your father on the farm, where did you go to sell the produce?

KK: There was a market down on Belmont.

MH: On Belmont. What time did you have to get up to go?

KK: Huh?

MH: Early. Did you go to the early market yourself before the war?

KK: Yeah.

MH: Were there other Nisei?

KK: There were a lot of Issei at that time.

MH: Did you have to do a lot of haggling to sell your things?

KK: No.

MH: Just had a set price? Okay. When you came back, then where did you sell your produce?

KK: Different peddlers like Safeway, Fred Meyers.

MH: And did you take it to them directly?

KK: Yeah.

MH: So you didn't go to early market?

KK: Take order and sell to them directly.

MH: When you came back to Gresham, was there a lot of racial prejudice yet? Did they want you back?

KK: It was hard to buy gas. So one time, once in a while, delivered gas, helped us out.

MH: So you had a gas tank on the farm and --

KK: Yeah, we did.

MH: How about going to buy groceries and things like that? Did you have any problems?

KK: No, we never had that.

MH: What did you raise?

KK: I raised cabbage and cauliflower, strawberries.

MH: Berries?

KK: Uh-huh.

MH: And who came and helped you harvest it? Did you have to go and hire people?

KK: We had to hire.

MH: Who took care of the children? Did Amy help you on the farm too?

KK: Uh-huh.

MH: So who took care of the children? They were quite young.

KK: Grandparents.

MH: Your grandparents or your mom and dad?

KK: My folks.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MH: At what age did you retire?

KK: I retired at sixty-five.

MH: You're sixty-five and that was what year?

KK: 1979.

MH: 1979. And what have you been doing in retirement?

KK: I played a lot of golf and pool.

MH: How did you get started in golf?

KK: Portland City Park.

MH: Had classes?

KK: Yeah. They offered lessons for us senior citizens, so I took advantage of it.

MH: How old were you then?

KK: Seventy-two.

MH: Seventy-two. You started playing golf. How come you didn't start earlier?

KK: I never had a chance.

MH: You never had a chance, and did you think it was a good game to get into?

KK: I did at that time.

MH: The Oregonian, since they were, you know, done by the Oregonian, they interviewed you, right?

KK: Yeah, they did.

MH: So you've been golfing since the age of seventy-two.

KK: Yeah, that's right.

MH: What happens at the age of eighty-five, Kaz?

KK: I had a stroke, and I almost give it up.

MH: So you can golf on any of the city courses?

KK: No.

MH: Free.

KK: Yeah, city courses, free, eighty-five and over.

MH: That's pretty good. What else did you do besides golf?

KK: I bowled.

MH: You bowled on a bowling league. Once a week, twice a week?

KK: I was bowling four times a week before I started golfing.

MH: And so then how often did you golf?

KK: Just about every day.

MH: Just about every day. Did you still have a garden at home?

KK: Yeah.

MH: So you worked in the garden. I understand that you had an accident. How did that happen? You broke your arm. How did you break your arm?

KK: Pear tree and the ladder tipped over, and I fell to the ground.

MH: How old were you then?

KK: Close to seventy-some.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MH: You also in retirement served the community a lot. What kind of community volunteering did you do?

KK: I was chairman of the Gresham JACL.

MH: What else?

KK: I was on the board for the Nikkeijinkai, and I got into Ikoi no Kai.

MH: You were president of the board of Ikoi no Kai for a good many years.

KK: I worked about a year or so.

MH: Why did you feel compelled to volunteer for these organizations? What made you do that?

KK: I had a lot of time on my hands.

MH: You had time on your hands. Did you feel it was important to do that?

KK: I thought it would be nice to be doing something.

MH: Your father taught you what? What did he always tell you? You had to what?

KK: Be honest.

MH: Be honest. When you're working on the farm, what did he tell you?

KK: I didn't say, he just, well I worked, I've dealt with my duties.

MH: He really taught you that you needed to work hard.

KK: Yeah.

MH: You have some really great achievements. What are some of the achievements that you've been honored for? You're being modest. I understand that you had gotten the emperor's award?

KK: Yeah, I did.

MH: Were you really proud of that? I think so. Also, some of the other organizations have also honored you. Can you tell me what those were?

KK: Gresham JACL gave me an Outstanding Citizen's Award. National JACL gave me a sapphire pen.

MH: I understand the Ikoi no Kai gave you some kind of recognition.

KK: They gave me a plaque.

MH: They gave you a plaque. You were also active at the Oregon Buddhist Temple, and I understand they also honored you with what?

KK: They honored me with the Kunmon.

MH: What is a Kunmon?

KK: An advisory capacity, I guess. I really don't know.

MH: What advice would you give to young people today?

KK: I can't think right offhand.

MH: Okay. Would you tell them to work hard? Do you have anything else to add to what we've been talking about?

KK: I was on the Farmer's Role Administration who I worked for ten years, so I got a certificate for that.

MH: Anything else?

KK: Huh?

MH: Anything else?

KK: Worked Multnomah County Sheriff's Reserve for five years, so I got a certificate for that too.

MH: Seems like you were a busy person.

KK: I sure was.

MH: Kaz, thank you for sharing your story with us.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.