Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Henry Ueno Interview
Narrator: Henry Ueno
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: May 1, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-uhenry-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

SG: Today we're here with Mr. Henry Ueno on May 1, 2003, so I'm going to go ahead and begin. Can you tell me how old you are, Mr. Ueno?

HU: Seventy-four.

SG: Seventy-four. And what year were you born in?

HU: 1928, December 29th.

SG: And where were you born?

HU: Pendleton, Oregon.

SG: And how long were you in Pendleton?

HU: About two years.

SG: Two years. Do you remember much of Pendleton?

HU: No. I don't have any memory from the Pendleton except when I went back there for, oh, maybe when I was ages thirty-one or two.

SG: Do you know what your parents were, why they were living in Pendleton?

HU: My father was a farmer.

SG: And he had come from Japan?

HU: Yes, from Wakayama Prefecture.

SG: And do you know why he chose, why he decided to live in Pendleton?

HU: I really don't know. I never had opportunity to talk to my father because when he died, I was only year old. And I suppose my hometown was a fishing village, and probably he didn't like the fishing business, so he decided to come over to the United States. And a lot of people those days, railroad camp, a lot of Japanese, the railroad, what do you call, camp was located in the Pendleton, Oregon, so I guess he moved to the Pendleton, Oregon, do the farming.

SG: And when you were two years old and you left Pendleton, where did you go?

HU: We went to a town, small town called Wakayama, I mean Katsuura, Wakayama, and that's where my father originally came from, and my mother's, nearby town.

SG: And did you have brothers and sisters also?

HU: Yes. I'm the fifth one, child, of the Ueno families, and I just say this time my mother married to Ueno. My father was her second marriage. The reason I'm saying this is that I have two half brothers in Japan, my mother left in Japan before she came over to marry to my father. Those are two brothers coming to part of my conversation today, so I'm just mentioning this about two half brothers in Japan.

SG: And so are you the youngest one?

HU: Yes. I was the youngest out of five.

SG: And you were born in Pendleton?

HU: Yes.

SG: And do you remember, did your mom ever talk about how her and your father met?

HU: It's the picture marriage, and especially her second marriage, and my mother was a really beautiful woman. And Mother was basically, after having two sons, husband died in boat accident. His family owns fleet of fishing boat, and husband died. And after that, family start treating her badly, and I assume that that's fear that someday her two sons and her taking over the family business. So she was told that they'll keep number one son, then you take number two son and go back home. Those days, probably there isn't too much say about it, so my mother left the family, went back to the mother's home. Later, the number one son grew up with the family. The number two son grew up with my mother's mother, grandmother.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

SG: So when your mom came over here, she left her two sons in Japan?

HU: Yes.

SG: So you have two half brothers, and then you have other siblings that were born in the United States?

HU: Yes. I have two brothers and two sisters.

SG: When you went back to, you moved back to Katsuura, you said, and how long did you stay in Katsuura?

HU: Until I was fourteen years old.

SG: And what was it like growing up in Katsuura?

HU: I grew up like any other Japanese boy, and not knowing too much about my background, born in America. That much I knew, but American citizenship or Japanese citizenship and that type of thing. I just grew up like any other boys. Until my seventh grade, the war broke out between Japan and America, and I was at this classroom there, and teacher was telling me, or telling us that war broke out between two countries, and I was fearful that my mother was going to hear the news, so I got permission from the teacher, then hurried back to the home and tried to comfort her. But my mother was just sitting home after hearing news, just motionless, so I tried to comfort her, but no words came out. And I... sorry about the tears coming out from my eyes. I remember Mother saying, "Masuo," which is my Japanese name, "Taihen no koto natta," that means it's terrible, that we don't know what's going to happen to us. And I just trying to tell her that, "It's going to be all right, it's going to be all right, nothing going to happen." But anyway, after that, she said, "You and your sister are American citizen, so don't say anything to anybody, just behave yourself, be a good boy, good student." And then we may be investigated by police or FBI, I mean the kempei is Japanese version of FBI... and nothing happened. I'm sure that they've been observing us or investigating through other people, but we're good citizens there, so nothing happens. And I was seventh grade and class president. And when I asked permission to go home after hearing the news, the war, even my teacher didn't know I was American citizen. And so after that, I remained as class president. They didn't do anything about it. And I, in the eighth grade, I was appointed as entire school student president. So in other words, they treated me as just natural, the Japanese boy.

SG: How did you feel inside at that time? Did you feel any conflict, or what was your feelings?

HU: You know, that age, you just, I grew up as just like American, I mean Japanese boy, and you know, you don't really think about the conflict between two countries and the war. And I just, life just went on, and I was busy participating in sports, physical trainings. And of course, when I was fourth grade, we started receiving military trainings, simple ones, how to march, how to handle the rifles, and that type of thing. But at the seventh grade, we're busy for training ourselves for the kendo, the fencing, the bayonet trainings, and the sports like baseball and small wrestling, that type of thing. It's a very ordinary, ordinary life, and I didn't really think too much that two countries' relationship.

SG: And your friends at that time, they didn't know you're an American citizen?

HU: They find out. But, we grew up together, so nobody mistreat me, just the same as, just other friends, so I was fortunate for that.

SG: Did your sisters have the same experience also?

HU: Sister was in Osaka, you know. She was, she got the job in Osaka upon graduation of eighth grade, and so I don't think nobody disturbed her. And she didn't have to, tell people that she was American citizen. Situations never called for it, so she spent her life actually same as just Japanese girl.

SG: And your brothers also?

HU: My brothers, brother left Japan, and came over to United States after he graduated from the eighth grade, elementary school. I was two years old. So at that time, just my mother and myself was living in a big house; so my sister in Japan, I mean Osaka, and my brother in Oregon.

SG: Do you know why your brother decided to come back to the United States?

HU: His English is relatively fluent because he was a big boy when he returned to Japan, so he decided to come over here and make money and support Mother. So that's the reason he decided to come.

SG: So he's basically sending money back to your mom?

HU: Oh, yes, not a great deal of money. He attended, I believe, Franklin High School for a couple years and working in the night and the summer logging camp, that type of things. And he made a way, and occasionally he sent just few dollars to Mother, that's all.

SG: Who did he stay with when he first came? He was in eighth grade you said when he first came back?

HU: Yes. He just stayed, somehow I never know exactly how he spent his life, but probably apartment or for labor. And we grew up being poor, so he could endure any hardship. [Laughs]

SG: So where are your brothers and sisters now?

HU: You know, this I have to go back to my childhood too. When we lost Father, or to my mother's husband, this was her second tragic marriage, and she determined that just, it's best to go back to Japan and still relatives out there, maybe, provided a helping hand raising the five kids. But Pendleton Japanese community is relatively large I understood, and quite a few families from the same town of my father's came from, and they proceeded to... first was the marriage, there is the single men, you know. But she decided, "No, this is, I had enough." Then they also told her that, "Why don't you give up a couple children? These couples are from the same town, childless, so they'll good care of your children." And she resisted, but finally said yes because of the uncertainty of her future and other kids, so this couple was relatively well to do, the couple is working. They're financially well off. So she finally said yes and with the promise of, to couple, they take good care of them.

SG: So they stayed --

HU: Stayed in Pendleton. Then three of us, three of us kids, oldest ones; oldest son and oldest daughter and youngest.

SG: And I forgot to ask you earlier, but how did your father die?

HU: Pneumonia, I hear. He become ill. But being farmer, he was pushing little hard, and it's a matter of two weeks, he was gone.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

SG: To get back to your brothers, did you have any contact with your siblings, your brothers that were, or your siblings that were left in Pendleton?

HU: Yes. My sister was, died at the age of sixteen, and my other brother grew up. And of course during the war, he volunteered to serve American military service, and brother went to Japan and then came back. He also volunteered for the U.S. Army. And other two, I mean my half brothers of course during the war, they served in Japanese army, so I had two brothers, Japanese army. And of course, we didn't know the fate of our two brothers in the United States at that time. We find out this was a fact after the war when we had a family reunion. And fortunately, all brothers came home safely. Only casualty in our house, immediate family, was my sister's husband. Later, she married to a family who owns a fishing boat fleet, and husband was killed. We assume he was killed in, somewhere in the ocean. He didn't have to go. He's the owner of the boat, but the shortage of the fishermen, he went along, and rumor was that he was killed in submarine, U.S. submarine. And in those days, all the fishing, relatively large fishing boat has a navy man on them, and they have machine guns. It's visible, just maybe trying to prevent from U.S. Navy or submarine people trying to capture the fishermen, so no sense having, the submarines protecting from the [inaudible]. But anyway, that probably kept up, and they just, submarines identify it as a fishing boat, as a navy boat because they equipped it with the submarine, I mean, the machine guns.

SG: Did... at that time because you had, your mom had some sons in the Japanese army --

HU: Yes.

SG: -- and some sons in the United States, it must have been very difficult for her.

HU: Yes. I don't know how she ever survived. But nightly, she sleeps in one room and I sleep in another room, and just even in the middle of the night, "Are you awake, Masuo, are you awake?" "Yes, Mother," you know. And then she talk about brothers and the daughter. We didn't know the fate of that daughter who died, but wondering how they are doing. And she often said about, "I never should have given up on them," son and daughter. Just almost nightly she talk about them.

SG: She felt very guilty?

HU: Yes. You know, I'm sure to be mother giving up two kids, even though it was adopted, and the situation was such that she didn't know exactly how she's going to survive in Japan. But...

SG: At that time because of the war, they wouldn't let you communicate with your siblings in the United States?

HU: Oh, no way. Before the war broke out and occasionally my oldest brother was writing to us, sending a little gift to us. But the war broke out and no communication whatsoever we established.

SG: When you did have the family reunion and all your brothers were there, you had brothers in the Japanese army and brothers in the American army?

HU: Oh, yes. As I said earlier that we didn't know the fate of two brothers in the United States. But year after the war ended, my oldest brothers came back as a federal employee and start working for the General Headquarters that we call MacArthur Headquarters. And then we find out every details and how the other brother is doing and so forth.

SG: Did they, what did they say about, did they ever talk about what it was like being in the Japanese military, your brothers?

HU: The brothers, no, it was just ordinary, soldiers. And so those days, it's our duty to just serve the military. And one brother, fortunately, they, Japanese military, they separated two brothers, not having a same unit, just the fear maybe the two may be killed at the same time. One brother was toward the end of the war into China, and my oldest brother is serving army, air force. In those days, no separation in air force, but army, air force transportation group. They were in and out of India, Singapore, those, the bases. So they were, one time, they were so close, just brothers fighting each other.

SG: Did your other brothers who served in the U.S. Army talk about their experience?

HU: He, fortunately, yeah, he didn't have to go to overseas. He remained, he joined, I mean, just before war ended, so he didn't have much actions, so he remained in the United States.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

SG: And you, when we had a chance to talk last time, you said that you, yourself, went through military training in high school?

HU: Ah, yes. It's just a requirement. You know, we started about fourth grade in elementary school and so go on to the elementary school, high grade, seventh and eighth grade, and training is actually how to shoot the gun, how to throw the hand grenade, and that type of thing. In high school, I went to a technical high school, and I majored for the, what do you call that, mechanical engineers. And even that, and I went to night school because I couldn't afford the day school. I had to work a day and went to night school by the same way we were trained just advance for the trainings throughout two years. And over three years, the war ended, so we just dropped, of course, military trainings.

SG: What kind of work did you do while you were in high school?

HU: The high school, I worked for the Osaka City Hall. And just before, I worked there about a year, then I start working for the factory because my chosen course was mechanical engineers, so I start working for the Japanese factory in the engineering department, and I learned for the drafting, high skill drafting.

SG: What was it like working in the factory for you?

HU: You know, because of my job, nature of my job, we stayed in office for the drafting. But during the war, I was chosen to be a leader of a youth group of the company, and remind you, I was American citizen. And our youth group function was that in case of emergency, work with the factory employees and police department and fire department. And at that time, already air raid started, so we experienced for the rescuing for the Japanese citizens escaping from fires. The entire city was just engulfed with the fires, and so we helped those citizens out. And I don't know whether I touched the subject or not, but again I cannot talk about this without my tears coming out. Seeing for those escaping Japanese citizens is you cannot really describe, and big fires in the background, they're escaping from fires, and mothers holding the small child, their hair is all burned, skin is burned. Mothers holding dead child, and herself, hair is all gone, and the skin is just hanging from all over the face. Of course, our job was to help the fire department, the police department. After the fires, we see just hundreds of dead bodies, and so we dig a trench and find the dead bodies from ashes and throw into the trench and pour the oils and burn them and bury them. Those are the experience that I still vividly remember. And because of the experience, even today, when you see the mangled body from auto accident and that type of thing, I don't think I have the same feelings as other people because you witnessed so many dead bodies in my life, when I was young, so I feel really guilty about it. I should be deeply emotionally involved or react to those dead bodies, but I just don't. I cry a lot, little things, I cry. But a dead body, the people die a normal death in the bed, I cry a lot. But when you see those mangled bodies in the auto accident, I just don't feel the same way that ordinary people probably would.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

SG: Do you think your experience during World War II like you were describing has affected you in other ways also?

HU: It made me strong.

SG: In what way?

HU: You know, not only during the war, I suffered quite a bit, I had to fight with the hunger. I almost died from hunger. During the war, we have a system working. But after the war, the food distribution system is totally collapsed and lack of government management and dishonest distributor, and we lived under the ration systems. But the system is poor, just completely broke down, and our rations for the food getting less and less and sometime just no rations for few days. And all of us have to live, I'm talking about the people in big cities, they're completely burned out, burned down to the ashes. And some people, housewives, married people, housewives go to countryside to buy a few vegetables and rice and that type of things although that, we call it black market and pay high prices. And of course, on the way back, the police raided trains and confiscated all the food. And some fortunate ones escaped by breaking the windows and jumping over the windows and escape. But most of them, a lot of them were actually caught, and the food they paid high price is confiscated. And by being young one, working for the factories, going school at night. At that time, I was finishing the school, I guess, in the technical school and didn't have a time to go to the countryside to buy things. Don't have a time, don't have a money, that's the two reason I couldn't go. And after the war, just the nature always comes back, just like a spring, and I don't have anything to eat. Those days, the rations is just either handful rice or handful wheat or soybeans or used to call animal food. In Manchuria, they produced a lot of, I guess for the soybeans, and they, what do you call that, crush to take oil out of it. The remaining is just like a wood chip, and so there's a part of ration too. We ate that, and no rice and no miso, no shoyu, no salt, just very simple life like nothing, no nothing is life. And I was losing weight considerably. And those days, I lost about twenty, twenty-five pounds and about hundred fifteen, hundred twenty body, and I could not walk up the steps with my own power. You have to pull that rails to pull myself up, and just walking the street become effort. You walk sidewalk and come to the end the curb, you have to stop and figure out how to get down, only about six inches. You have to balance, then take a time, get down, walk other side. You have to figure out how to get up the six inch of a curb. And then myself, I mentioned that the spring came back. It's nature, start producing wild weed on that, from ashes, so I went out there and pick those wild flower, I mean weed and cook and ate, and some of it was vile, you know. Well, weed is just terrible, just smells so bad. You cook twice and three times, still bad. But you know, for survival, you have to eat. Then I just pinch my nose and just swallow, and that's the only way I survive because ration's just handful, handful rice in one day. I cook the rice in the morning, and I just drink the soup portion of rice and went to work, and they provide the lunch which is two kind of mochi type made of the sweet potato powder. They just mix with the water and then make foam or the mochi type and then steam it, and that's provided by company because everybody's suffering from hunger. So then go to work, I mean, go to school. After work, then I come back, then I eat that rice left on the pot. It's kind of formed a little thick soup type of thing. So that was just a terrible until the situation start improving.

SG: Were you taking care of your mother at this time also?

HU: No. At that time, occasionally. And after the war, I start working two jobs. So in other words, I work one job, go to school, and then sometime in the middle of the night, I work for the factory, different factories, make extra money to send Mother little money. That's all I could, I could have done that. And the incident in Japan from that, hungry people, is just unthinkable. Husband and wife, the husband go to work. They put all the food, available food, in wooden bins and locked up. The husband take the key with him, so the wife will not eat while he's gone. Not, this is just a few incident that we hear about. And of course, the husband beat up the wife because suspecting the wife eating the food while he is gone. And this is funny. You know, people think Japanese is honest, but my personal incident was my mother worried about me, just urging me to come home, and come home, but I just determined to stay in the city. And my mother sent me dried fish, dried vegetables in the package. And when I received the package, it's only just paper and the string and the label is on the paper. Then I protest to the post office, and the post office worker say, "Oh, you're lucky you got the package." It's empty package. The postal workers steal the food because situation was just so bad. You know, people think I'm just making up these stories, but this is my experience. And on the street, you see the dead, the body just skin and the bones. You see the railroad stations, many, many dead bodies in underground stations. That was situations. So you know, the Nisei folks say they were incarcerated in the camp. They lost the freedom, all that type of things. But us in Japan, well, for me it was American boy, suffering to go through. Sometime those wondered, gee, we suffered more.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

SG: What, you said during the, there was a lot of American bombings and air raids. How did you feel during that time? What was it like for you to experience that?

HU: Oh, it's really, initial bombing wasn't that hard, but it's getting, increases and become day and night, and we just took it just a matter of fact. When the air raid sound, then we go, just on the street. We dig the, what do you call, the shelters, air shelters, and we just, each kind of family has that type of a shelter. So we go in there and until the air is clear, then come back. It's just daily things and the nightly things, you know. We just took care of the, just as a daily life. And I remember I was staying, at that time, I was staying with my uncle's house who operate a restaurant, and my auntie has to deliver the child. You know, those days, a midwife who takes care of it, but it happened to be nighttime. You know, we just, we shut off all the lights. The windows were covered with black cloth and all that type of things, but she had to deliver the babies in that conditions, and you know, just dark, so dark. We just kind of feel around, boil the water, that type of things. That is terrible, the situations. And the uncle's house was burned down, and I moved to another uncle's house after that. Carrying with me was only just schoolbook, everything just burned, and I moved to another uncle's house. Then I think it was about two weeks later, his house was burned down, so I become just homeless. And I negotiated with the company, then company accept me as, stay in company dormitories, just one room, maybe I would say about 6 by 12 or something like that, small, just a room. And kitchen was common kitchen was at end of the hallways, and two gas stoves sitting there with the sink.

SG: What kind of factories were you working in at that time?

HU: We were producing military position equipment which will grind inside of ball bearings.

SG: Were you afraid that the U.S. military would target those factories?

HU: No. Fortunately, we were bombed once, piercing it for the roof, and then exploded. But at that time, all the employee was in, what do you call it, the air shelters, so nobody get hurt. But this one time, I was the head of a leader of the youth and the air raid sirens sound. My job is to go up the roof, watchtower and watch the B-29s coming over. And my job is to determine whether or not we are safe or not, and so they just fly over some directions. I don't, I didn't have to warn the factory people because the time was very precious, so we cannot stop our productions. Then when the group of the airplanes, the B-29 come over directly over us, approaching directly over us, then I warn the people so they'll go into the air shelter.

SG: So what would... can you describe what would happen when you saw a B-29, how that worked?

HU: Of course, again, you're used to in any situations. So here comes B-29s, and they are just slightly off course, so I don't warn the people. So the fear type of thing, you just don't feel. It's just kind of daily life, daily activities. So just like soldiers going to front lines, they can't think of fears or what's going to happen to him. You just obey the command and go to it, so that's, that's the life.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

SG: Is there anything else about the war, right after the war that you would like to tell us about?

HU: Yeah. I was... when I was sixteen, the year 1941, I was, I received a letter from district office of city that I should appear to take a physical, and those days, a lot of my friends included too, volunteer for the youth military schools and that type of thing, and I suppose they desperately need soldiers, but they cannot draft underage people, so they probably direct the young mens for the different schools, the trainings and that type of thing, and I took a test and passed the physical. They asked me whether my mother, my parents were, approved of my joining the service. And I didn't really expected this because, young, but I start thinking, gee, what to answer this, you know. At that time, I knew I was American citizen, but I just stop, think, and quiet for a while, then I thinking all the situations how my mother feels, all the relatives. My brothers, the Japanese army, and can I refuse. That's the biggest fear, can I refuse. If I refuse, tell them I can't serve, I'm American citizen. Then how they feel, how they'll treat it, so I didn't answer that questions, and the city people said, "How come you don't answer all my questions?" Then I have to confide, you know. Finally, I'm American citizen, so that was it. They cannot draft me, draft American citizen. And then the day goes on. And about a few months later, my mother in hometown received from town hall that I was given Japanese citizenship. I wasn't asked for it, you know. So anyway, so they could technically draft me, I was dual citizenship, and they did. But fortunately because of the incident, being American citizen, war ended just a few days before my induction date. I didn't know exactly what they're going to do to me because I'm sixteen years old. They probably send me to youth training center and whatever, but I was saved by the bell. That was just a terrible things in my situations. My life is just so complicated, the half brothers and my brothers and all that type of things.

And I'm going back a little farther, when I decide to go to city of Osaka for further education for the technical schools. This school is really unique, just only one in Japan. This school required one year's more than any other high school and very high level high school, and the students come from all over Japan, not only just the city of Osaka and nearby towns. And I took a test, and I, passed the written test. And we have an interview, character testing, and five judges were there. Actually, all those were teachers, the interviewers, and one interviewer noticed my background, and he said, "Answer us why we have to accept you as an American citizen while we're denying Japanese citizen for entering school." And I, oh, gee, this is it. This is all, I just gave up. I couldn't even answer. But the one interviewer stood up. "He has excellent school record, and he passed exam, high grade. And he has just tremendous, the recommendation from principal and teachers from elementary school, and his parents are Japanese, and it wasn't Ueno's fault that he was born in the United States. He grew up just like a Japanese boy except first two years of his life." And the other examiners, they can't say much then. So I still remember the scene, the way she stood up for me, and we became a good friend for the next four years. And I still appreciative for his views, and I appreciate it then, and I still appreciate him now. He's long gone, but... so there is a, among the Japanese, against others in the stand up for the principle.

SG: There's some good people, huh?

HU: Yes, good people. So I kind of away from your question, but so, very, very exciting. And when I, after the technical high schools, Japanese industry was completely demolished under the occupation forces, and they even came to our factories. They examine the machines, blueprints, and all that things. Then we are asked to submit all the blueprints in a miniature version. Those days, you don't have, the machines to shrink and enlarge, all that type of thing. Oh, we spent just days and months to come up with drawn up miniature version of the copies. And then at that time, I felt, oh, Japanese industry was completely destroyed, no chance for recovery, and so I decided to attend the law school, and you know, I start, I'm going to law school. And when I was finishing the second year at law school, I regained my U.S. citizenship. I start processing this for much earlier, but I, they hung up with my record of working for the city hall for one year, age of fourteen, so it's delayed a little, but they determined that I was underage, age of fourteen, fifteen. So finally, they granted for citizenship. And when I was growing up, my hometown, we have to make every two years to the American consulate office in Kobe to keep registering or renewing our citizenship. The American citizens had to require that. But the war interrupted for four years, so we automatically lost our citizenship. So then I start processing and going back to the original point, I regained citizenship. Then that time, my brother was already working for GHQ, and he helped me out quite a bit. And so I was determined to come over to United States. In those days, just Japan was just a mess, just a mess and lost the war, the economy, the economical recovery is far distance away, so then I quit school and came over here. My brother helped me out, gave me five hundred dollars. His gracious five hundred dollars, those days, five hundred dollar is just huge money, so I financed that for coming over here and a few spending money for the, you know. But that's the beginning of life in the United States.

SG: And where did you come to when you came to the United States?

HU: I came straight to the Portland, go through the, Hawaii and San Francisco and came to Portland because my parents was Pendleton's, and they were a few friends, for the people in the hometown, people lived in the Portland. And my, I call him my uncle. He's the man who adopted my brother. He was living in Portland, so I came to him because he was living in a little apartment, but I came to Portland. Then my other struggle begin there. [Laughs] I got a job beans picking in the third day in Portland. I have to survive, so that was a tough job, and I just wondered, "Americans work this hard?" you know.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

SG: I had one more question about your life before you came to the United States. Did you have any contact with the American military or the occupation forces in Japan before you came over?

HU: Of course, my brother's working for the GHQ, and he has a lot of Nisei friends as well as American friends, so my contact was, it was always a Nisei people that worked for the GHQ. Oh yeah, I remember one incident. This is nothing related to your question. After the war, right after the war, occupational military forces start coming to the Osaka, and I was, I was, our mission over buying for the food in the black market. Only I could afford to buy with the money I had, I can buy rice, I can buy regular expensive vegetables. So I went over, I was dying, so what the heck. I bought that sweet potato vines, just bag full of the sweet potato vines. It was the cheapest one that I could get. People don't eat, they just throw it away. And it was kind of late at night. I selected late at night so that the police would not confiscate my precious food, and it was raining. I got off the station and the dock. Then I saw the headlights of the automobile, the far, far distance away, but that was my judgment. I didn't know the automobile traveled that fast, but I crossed the street with the package in my hands in the back, and that was, that would be the MP, the U.S. Army. They were scared too, I'm sure. They just screeched to a stop, and I just turned around, and they're saying something, and they already start drawing their guns. Oh, wait a minute and another lady was following behind me. She just kind of hid behind me to protecting herself, and they approached me with the gun drawn, and they say something. And I say, oh, they're going to shoot me, you know. And later occupation days, those things don't happen. But earlier, they were scared just as much as we were. So any incident like that, maybe I'm carrying for the bomb or something, then just innocent young man, right, and old lady behind me so that one motion, then got on the jeep and took off. That's the first contact, direct contact with the U.S. military force.

SG: How were your experience, did you have any other experiences after that with them?

HU: No, just a distance, no, not direct contact with the army, military forces, just, we just observe.

SG: What were people's feelings about the American occupational forces or your personal feelings?

HU: I don't think we have that much remorse. You know, they accept, law and order, so we were defeated even before the Emperor's made announcement through the radio. Of course, there is, they tried to disturb that airwaves, so it's scratchy, but they made announcement. And I think most citizens accepted we were defeated and a word from Emperor. Actually, that saved the country too. If it wasn't the Emperor, the announcement, you don't know what happens. I know, I remember the incident after the announcement, some of military units, they made announcement that, announcement was, what do you call it, phony. That wasn't the Emperor's voice, and some airplanes drop the leaflet, we would never surrender. We just, fight must go on, that type of, little early stage, and it disappears in a few days, and the people obeyed word of Emperor surrender, unconditional surrender. So it was a tense moment though. It just, we don't know what to do, and in my case, too, I'm just ready to report to the camp. [Laughs] So relief, yes, hungry, yes, the sadness, yes. We just went through the, all that, and most of the people were just numb. You know, we just, we cannot just bear anything like that, just totally numbness.

SG: Had you, by that time, had you heard about the atomic bombs being dropped?

HU: Yes. That was before the end, the date that we surrendered was the 15th. The announcement came the 15th of August. Then the bomb was dropped to Hiroshima, August 6, and Nagasaki is August 12th. And we know that was really big things, but we weren't really told the truth about devastation of the bomb, and they showed some pictures, but the government controlled the kind of papers. So we didn't know until the war ended, then we start seeing the pictures, true pictures, total just miles, miles, city is completely flattened. So otherwise, probably we didn't surrender that time, you know. Did you notice my saying "we"? I'm speaking of the Japanese because I just grew up there. Only thing is just a few years end of a war then I start noticing that I'm an American citizen. So otherwise, just, we didn't realize that the bomb's effect, just total, total devastation. And that in people's mind, convince the people no wonder we have to surrender.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

SG: Mr. Ueno, what did you, what were your thoughts about the war in general during that time?

HU: Of course, we are raised in that conditions, fight and win. Until the war ended, of course, everybody especially, young men, father, mother has a young man, they're relieved. And then, but we didn't know things would get worse for the hunger situations. And so I was, I really felt, I was really relieved. American citizens serving in the U.S. Army, I mean Japanese army. I really can't, think should I/shouldn't I, or I should/I shouldn't. You know, that's the struggle for a little while, and I was lucky that I didn't. I lost many friends in the war, some was kamikaze pilot. Teenagers, they died. But when I came to United States -- I'm sorry I'm just kind of jumping around -- I probably stories, but just connect to this war situations. I was drafted in the U.S. Army year later, then the fight against the Koreans. You know, Korea is part of Japan, right. Then they came over here, then experience all the miserable situations in Japan, and then I was drafted. I had no chance of escape. Either I serve or, actually, they cannot technically send back, send me back to Japan because at that time I was American citizen. But the captains kind of somehow indicated, "You're American citizen, you have to serve. You have to go back to your own country," type of remark, so that's how it happens. And military training, I didn't speak English at all. Just imagine that anybody don't speak the language serving for its military. I can't even understand it for the drills, command, that type of thing. And the classrooms, they don't provide your book. I carried the dictionary, Japanese/English dictionary, but no books, nothing to read. And only thing I could do is just borrow the notes from a buddy. But I learned how largely Americans' handwriting, it was just so bad, you know. You cannot read one guy's handwriting, even American cannot read this, so I tried to sweep the page of dictionaries. I stayed up, see, we have to, lights out time is, was at ten o'clock and always lights was on, so I went to the latrine, the benjo, and I stayed up all night and just trying to catch the few words that we learned that day. And for the physical activities, I could stay up, but on the sit down in the classrooms, it's so sleepy. I slept almost all the class time. And, I'd be punished because of sleeping in the classroom, so I learned to sleep with my eyes open in those days. I was swaying like this. I just, that was quite an experience. But after the basic training, I was sent to a artillery school in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I suffered the same, but those days, this is thanks to the Nisei people. When military find out I'm a Nisei, they just treat me so nice because for their accomplishment, effort, so I was treated very, very nice. And a company commander who was, who served in Japan couple years, so he was much more understanding. So for, for the punishment I receive sleeping in the classroom, he just waived that, tell the instructors don't bother, so I escaped from that punishment, too.

SG: And you were nineteen, how old were you when --

HU: Twenty.

SG: You were twenty?

HU: Yeah. Then after the Fort Sill, artillery school, then I was sent to Korea. And the Korean situation, it's bad. North Koreans and Chinese armies are there pushing the U.S. Army to the south. So we were sent to Korea to protect military, and American military and Korea military were retreating from enemy, enemies, excuse me. And I was fortunate I have special orders as an interpreter who doesn't speak English much, but I was interpreter anyway, and I remained in Japan. But my buddies, they experienced the heavy casualty. I, even today, though, I feel bad about it why I wasn't there, when people get killed, and my friends are getting killed. I was back in Tokyo and Okinawa, safe place. But just knowing Japanese, and I was saved.

SG: When you came to the United States, your mom was still alive in --

HU: Ah, yes.

SG: -- Katsuura?

HU: Yes.

SG: How was her feelings of you coming to the United States?

HU: The ladies experience that kind of hardship. She just have to just go around, whatever. Her surrounding is, going around, so she doesn't say anything. She was sad that I'm coming over here, but she didn't object my coming over here. After my brothers left Japan for the United States, I was head of family. I had a six years older sister, but women don't count, so I become the head of the family. And I send the season, letter to the friends and families under my name, and I attend the family gatherings with adults and second years, second grade boy in weddings, funeral service. I represent the families, and I took, I really felt bad for her because of the suffering she went through, so I really take care of her, kind to her, and always extending, understanding her, comforting her. So I think I felt, I'm grown up, ready to go to United States. I talked to her, and she didn't say a thing, kind of word like good luck, you know.

SG: Was it a difficult decision for you to make?

HU: Yes and no. Yes is leaving Mother there. But of course, my sister were there in the same town, and Japanese, what do you call it, economic situation is pretty bad, and I felt that this is probably the only way that I could successfully survive. Then she was all, she had a house, so, comfortable for as long as I could help her financially, and I write as often as possible, so I really didn't feel guilty leaving her there. Then later, after we got married, we tried to bring her here, United States. But, of course, she didn't understand English, no friends. Her friends here, most have gone, so she said I'm going to just watch the cemetery of, ancestors including her husband, so she wouldn't budge. So she stayed, stayed in Japan.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

SG: And after you joined the military, you said you served some time in Tokyo?

HU: Yes.

SG: How was that going back to Japan for you?

HU: Exciting though, very, very exciting, and I knew that I get to see friends, old classmate and, of course, mother and sister and, of course, my brothers are working for GHQ, so that was, we didn't know for a while that I could get to see family because we couldn't tell our missions or, what do you call it, actions. And somehow much earlier that I have written to them after this training most likely that I be sended to Korea so wait for my communications, but I could not tell anything to anybody. And on the way, we arrived at Yokohama and got on the trains, and I caught conductor, a railroad conductor and gave the carton of cigarettes and some candies and asked him to deliver the message to my brother, just handwritten message, and he did. And I think the second day in camp, Asaka camp near Tokyo, my entire family, my brothers bring my mother from Wakayama. Then the entire family, my mother and sister, all came to see me in the camp. And at that time, I, when you're heading for the war, so your life is no guarantee even for tomorrow, so this, I felt this was my last chance maybe to see the entire family.

SG: So a happy and sad moment.

HU: Oh, yeah. Seeing them was happy, but thinking that this may be the last time. Even my brothers, American brothers, yeah, he gave me this odd encouragement. He said, "You may be killed, but don't get shot from behind, just like a, you are U.S. Army." In other words, don't be coward, fight like a man. I just shake my head, easy for you to say, you know. [Laughs] But it was a happy moment though. Then I didn't get a job in the Tokyo area, so they sent me to Okinawa and got fourteen, fifteen months, rest of my entire, my army life was spent in Okinawa as an interpreter, bodyguard for the commanding officer regiment. I served in the 29th Infantry Regiment.

SG: How was your experience?

HU: Yes. You know, that's, even I could say to anybody this, but that two years of my military life is the most valuable time in my life, two years. You know, when you come from Japan, you already feel little inferior complex in America, look at the Americans. I felt that way when I came from Japan. They are big and smart looking, all that, so I had a feeling too. Most of Japanese or Kibei those days felt just the same way. Even Kibeis told the Nisei, "We felt the same way because we didn't speak English. We are a little behind." So, most of the time, all the Niseis, Kibeis, they group together themselves and kind of disassociate with the Nisei group. And when I came to United States, I was determined to become a member of this Japanese American community, and I have to mingle with Nisei even though I didn't speak English, so I seek the help from Nisei, you know. "I'm here, I don't know what to do. I'd like to mingle with the Nisei people and how to do it." And I remember, probably you don't know, Doctor Marumoto and Shingo Hongo was two persons that I talked to, and they gave me support and advice. So I'm really grateful that I'm accepted by the Nisei group in the Japanese community as a member, and I do serve a lot of community organizations and volunteer works, but I feel this is my repayment to Nisei people, Japanese American communities. Without them, I had a really difficult time. I know the friends, the Kibeis, but they still kind of shy away from Japanese American communities and Nisei groups, and my life is a happy one because I know the Nisei group will still support me and accepted me as a member.

SG: In what ways do they support you?

HU: Mostly for the, take me to the group gatherings and explain to me the American life, how to behave, and all kind of daily things. So then just knowing that, hey, I'm becoming member of this group, one more step, one more step, so I'm happy.

SG: You mentioned that serving in the military for two years was the most valuable experience. Why was it such a valuable experience for you?

HU: I say this because most of Kibeis, they kind of separate from American communities or Nisei groups. The serving with the American young men made me feel that, oh, they're not smarter than I am. I'm just as good as they are, and I find out their thinkings, their behaviors, and all that things. So I start thinking that I'm a little boy from Japan, I'm just as good as they are. And I'm just, member of this group, so that made my life later on, made me just really comfortable, not separating myself from Americans, American society, which most of Kibei don't get. You know, you live twenty-four hours a day, two years with them, you get this feelings. I don't know whether it's only me or what, but it's valuable in life, just thinking that American is no different from me. That's the reason I say that. You cannot buy that type of education.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

SG: So after two years in the military, you came back to Portland, is that right?

HU: Yes.

SG: And what happened?

HU: Oh, what happened, there have been other struggles. But I wanted to go to school for the one thing, so what was the first job? Oh, I did odd job, the restaurants, work at restaurants, the busboys and dishwashers and butchers and vegetable men, fountain men. That's the only you could get, you know. The guy don't speak fluent English. Then I decide to enroll with the Portland State, now University, Portland State University, but I really had a hard time. Then I made it for two years, and then I become ill. In the same time, I needed a place to stay, so I become governor of American old ladies, rich ladies, so I take care of household, the stuff, the shopping, and, the financial things, and then that's my security for the home. Then I work for the grocery stores and then go to school, go to school, and then I get over extended. I become ill. I don't know exactly, I didn't have the money to go to doctors, but I just totally become ill. I could not raise my arms, just dead person. Then I called the Veteran's Administration, and the processes are so difficult to accepted in a veteran's hospital. You got to submit all your positions, all your properties before you're submitted to the, you know. And I'm doing this with my poor English, so just heck with it. So I quit a job for a while, and the only thing I kept is for the governorship for the American woman so I have a home, place to stay.

SG: Where was that located?

HU: Located in Northeast Portland. Then it took me about several months to fully recover the condition. By that time, of course, I quit school.

SG: Do you remember the woman's name you worked --

HU: Miss Fritz, Miss Fritz, Sue Fritz. We continued the relationship for a long time, you know. I quit the place. Even out where we got married, we just kept up our relationship until she died.

SG: So you worked there for six years?

HU: No, no. I didn't work that long, probably about maybe two, three years, I can't remember exactly. It's just so confusing, the time, the illness, going school, and working for the grocery store during that time, how many years I worked. But I still kept up the relationship and helped, helped her out. We went to the dinings and all that type of thing.

SG: And then your health recovered?

HU: Yes, after several months.

SG: And you said you were at PSU for, what were you studying at PSU?

HU: Business, business administration. But two years I have to give up. And later, I working, start working for the Naito, some Naito, Bill Naito's, warehouse, still going school. And somehow, I kept so many jobs at one time. And some of Bill's brother, Albert, he established his own importing company, so I was invited to work for them, and I worked there for a while. But Albert decided to go to California, so closed the shop. And after that, I worked for the other companies including, I don't know whether, you probably don't know, Makoto Iwashita, he had a gift shop, an import business in the Hollywood district. I worked him for quite a while, and I worked for George Azumano for a while. Then opportunity came to become general manager of a importing-exporting company, small company. Then I work there for a while, then I become managing director, and pretty much everything is, I have control and worked there for a while, then almost become, then I become a partnership with the owner, then stayed there for a while.

SG: Did you ever go back to school at PS, or school?

HU: No. I was just too busy. You know, I had a family. And of course, that's an excuse. You know, you should have, I have opportunity to do that, but just married and kids and busy with my own business, so never had a chance to go back. Sometimes cross my mind, maybe I should go back, but too old.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

SG: When did you meet your wife?

HU: I met her 1949. When I was on the way to Portland, she was on the way to Honolulu. At that time, she already graduated from university in Japan, and she's just pursuing further, further educations in Hawaii. We met on the boat, and I parted with her in Honolulu, then I came to Portland. And then we corresponded for a long time, ten years to be exact. And after eight years, I just want to make sure that she is the one. So after eight years, I wrote to her father and get his blessing and permission to marry her. At that time, she was working for the U.S. government, and she just signed up for two more years of contract with the federal government, so she couldn't, she couldn't come over. So I asked her to train herself to be a good bride, so she went through the cooking school and flower arrangement and all that for two years.

SG: In Japan?

HU: In Japan. When I asked her father for permission, and we, corresponded for the eight years, so family knew me like their own son. And we're just writing all the time, so they knew my character. You cannot lie about yourself for eight years, daily corresponded type of thing. And after two years finishing the contract with the government, she came over two years later. So even to exact the date, ten years, we haven't seen each other. So that's an unusual situation, but we were patient, I guess, and happy. We have two wonderful children. Oh, they're all grown up, and we have two granddaughters, so happy ones.

SG: How often did you write to each other?

HU: On the ship, we formed five people, then we start exchange, I mean, corresponded for the among the five. But one dropped out and married, and that and now only just the two of us left. So at that time, probably maybe once in two months, once in three months. Then after a few years, the number of corresponding start increasing, and we knew that we shared the common interests. So then it came to that point that I proposed to her. And at that time when she accepted, she promised me that she'll write me every day. So I thought every day, yeah, taking notes, like a diary type of thing. She sent me seven letters a week, separate letters, and she continued that two years. She's a very stubborn woman, you know. She promised one and she just follow up, and my correspondence increased too. I have to kind of reciprocate, yeah, so maybe once a week, twice a week type of thing, you know. And to this day, she has my letters packed and sealed in the basement. I am not to touch it. She has, overall this, happy ones. But the incident I have is... you know those days, you don't, forty-four years ago, we don't fly, and we don't call. Unless it is business, you don't call people in Japan. And when we engaged, my friend in the business, I asked him to take engagement ring, deliver it to her, so we made arrangement. He stays in the Miyako Hotel in Kyoto, and she came up from Fukuoka to meet him. You know, my friend gave engagement ring. [Laughs] It was a really odd thing, you know. But, oh, anyway, that's not really common interest for the viewer of this film. So people just wonders, how we survive ten years courtship without seeing each other for ten full years.

SG: That's wonderful. And so you ended up getting married in the United States?

HU: Yes. She came over here alone, and I think some relatives probably against her decisions. But when she came over, no relatives. Closest one is Hawaii, and no one here. And however, I have many lady friends. It's easier to make lady friends than male friends. So they, and I get to know their families, that type of thing. And when she came over, of course, we had to make wedding, ceremony, arrangement, so she, then all my friends, the girls, lady friends, they get together, then taking her to lunch, taking to the shopping, making the wedding arrangement. I know she was puzzled. Why all these ladies, young ladies, helping her? Later she'll find out, they are really good friends. So anyway, that's how we end up.

SG: Were you nervous the first, when you're going to see her for the first time in ten years? How did you feel?

HU: No, no, no. I wasn't nervous at all. No, that's lie. [Laughs] She send the telegram, telegram. You remember that thing, such a thing? She send me a telegram, and she told me for the departure date, and so I am to go down San Francisco and meet her. But I didn't, I was, I suppose I was nervous. I didn't realize, Japanese date and American date one day different. So I got there one day early and went to the airport, nothing happens, and I just wonder, oh, she lied to me, you know. See, now this is the date, was it one day early or somehow, so I waited one day. Maybe it was a mistake. All of a sudden, I realize the date different. [Laughs] So next day, we met. Ten years, but I think that's worth waiting, I guess.

SG: What was it like to have met after ten years?

HU: Oh, just exciting. But good thing about our marriage is we corresponded for ten years, then we knew each other. Even for the food she cook, I knew, I mean, she knew that how much salt to be used and soy sauce and whatever because I was writing a letter to her, and I'm cooking, you know. I'm just, while I'm cooking in my apartment, I'm just writing a letter, and I'm cooking such and such a thing. I put too much salt, you know that type, so that we knew. So even to this date, she never cook anything that I dislike, so that's the good part of this longtime courtship, you know. But I tell people how long, I've known her before marriage and all that things, and I usually tell them that, oh, I spent only six hours with her before I propose. The people just kind of, "What?" That's the truth because we're on the boat. That's a Navy transport in those days, 1949. We don't have a passenger ship for boat, so we came over with the military transport, Navy transport. And I bunk with a guy, three Navy bunks, three tiers, I guess. The one guy above me seems to disappear at two o'clock in the afternoon every day since we left Yokohama. And after six days, I just became curious, "Where do you go on the ship?" He explained to me that there's, we are separated, men's compartment, women's compartment. He had a cousin in women's compartment. He was asked to take care of her until reached the San Francisco. And so he go to the compartment, women's compartment, and open for male two to four, so he spend the time there. So he asked me would I want to go. So naturally, I just jump to opportunity. And she, then I met her and other two ladies including the guy's cousin. That's where we formed the five group, five people. So that's how, then only I could see, the weather was bad. We cannot really go up to the deck, so we spend, the compartment for two hours in three days, and she got off in Honolulu. So that's how the six hours came about. So I enjoyed telling people, oh, young people especially, "I knew my wife, only six hours before I proposed to her." [Laughs]

SG: It's a nice, nice story.

HU: But anyway.

SG: What was your wedding after, what was, did you have a traditional Japanese wedding?

HU: No, western. She, of course, changed to Japanese kimono, after the ceremony and taking the pictures. And I was going to church, and the church folks all came and was decent wedding ceremony. I didn't have any relatives here. She didn't have any relatives, but all those Nisei girls helped me out for make arrangement.

SG: Where was the wedding at?

HU: Wedding took place in Northeast Portland near the Hollywood District, and pastor was very, very nice, and the wife helped us out.

SG: At a Japanese church?

HU: No, no, no, American. What is that? Some Alliance, something or other. I can't remember the name of the church.

SG: Are you still in touch with the friends from that time?

HU: I think, from that wedding party, two men and two ladies are still alive. The rest are gone, from illness and old age.

SG: They remained your close friends?

HU: Oh, yes, yes. And this is a small town, you know. Once you get to know them, you can't help it just running into each other for, especially for the, some wedding parties, funeral service. The funeral service, I hate to say this, but we see each other all the time. It's a sad occasion, but it happens a lot of times, meet each other. Right now, the Issei people, passing away, then we go to a lot of funeral service. And now it's the Nisei's time. A lot of Nisei is dying, but we're just waiting for the ring, when our time comes and then we got to go.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

SG: I was looking back you on living from Japan and decided to come to United States. Now how do you feel about coming back to United States and making that choice to live in the United States?

HU: You know, really don't think much about it. It's just a part of my life, and I choose to do this, so I don't really think back how I felt, how I feel. This is my life. When I came to United States unlike other Kibeis, I choose to be a member of a Japanese American community. And for my survival, I have to, I mention this before, mingle with the Niseis, so I just, just pursuing, as a part of my life and making, best of it every, every step the way. So I don't really think, how I felt. It's just continued motions. This is my being here then continuing life that including, the military service and other things too. So I just, and I'm just grateful what I am and just help I receive from the people. So it's, it's just my, just life, and when you struggle so much. You know, when I was discharged from the military service, I really struggled in the military service especially for the basic training and artillery schools, and my oversea duty was relatively easy. You know, I was assigned to commanding officers and relatively easy life. But a person suffer this much will make it regardless, you know, what happen. The next hardship that comes around, they'll just make it. And my wife, we share the same type of experience. She was a Hawaiian-born Nisei Kibei, and grew up in Japan during the war. So when we got married, we said to each other, We experienced this much hardship so we'll make it," so we did, you know. So going through the hardship has developed a person's character. You know, some people kind of destroy themselves, cannot withstand for the hardship. But when you make it, it becomes your asset and valuable experience. So my wife will probably say same thing, we'll make it, so we made it. That's... and we'll continue to spend happy life.

SG: I think so. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about, Mr. Ueno?

HU: You know, I omitted a lot of things that I wanted to tell, but I've been, constantly talking, so that's about, unless I could think of something maybe, I could add it later. And that's about my life as a Kibei in Japan and the United States and just might add that I'm a very happy Kibei, Nisei. And all this time, I want to talk to my experience to Kibei people but never had opportunity to talk. Of course, nobody probably interested, what happened to one Kibei, in Japan during the war and the struggles after came back to United States. But I think it's, I really appreciate this opportunity. If one Kibei listen to my interviews, then somehow I am grateful that some way I can tell him my experience. The same time, they probably think to themselves how fortunate they are, growing up in U.S. born here and grow up in U.S. And probably most of the Niseis has less struggle than I have, less hardship they experience than I have, but I don't have any remorse. I'm happy here, so thank you for all.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

HU: You know, my life, I'm a fortunate one. Wherever I go, I have surround by good people, good friends. Back in Japan in hometown, I was warmly accepted. And the reason I'm saying this hometown is it's a beautiful town, and even, I left there age of fourteen. But every time I go Japan, I go visit my hometown and, of course, seeing the relatives and sisters and their children. But somehow, I'm anxious to see my classmate. And when they, I usually tell them when I'm coming that they organize the old classmate of the elementary school. They organize a class reunion for me, and we have a wonderful gatherings. And some of, we are losing for, many classmate because of the age, but we have just a wonderful, wonderful time and act like children. We sing the school song, and we talk about the old days, that type of things, including teachers and all that. And it's, I'm really fortunate that my old classmate will do this for me. And some classmate live long distance, and they send the committee for the telegrams, and they send money for the big parties, that type of thing. And when I moved to Osaka, just the same thing, everybody just so nice to me. And the biggest impact I have is when I came back from military service, I was really well accepted.

And at that time, I get to know a lot of Issei people, and I find out they have some, the Isseis have a communication problem with their own daughters and son. And it's not, if it's just a daily life it's not so much, but sometime they have a complicate discussions, type of things, then I try to help them out. And for one time, of course, the Issei people cannot communicate with their own, sons and daughters. They have a lot of complaint, so they call me, call sometime just day and night, then I listen to them and just make them happy, just somebody listen to them, and it takes just many hours sometimes. I never interrupted their talk; I listened to them. Sometime I just add a few words and comforting them. And I get really deep satisfactions from this activities. And the reason behind this, or not intentionally, but I felt guilty not able to live with my mother. So, mingling with the Issei people, somehow they give me satisfactions and comfort that making up for my association with my mother. And some cases, they have a problem with a property dispute with families in Japan, that type of thing, I help them out. And for business connections, I even consult with the lawyers in Japan type of thing.

And when I decided to live here in Portland, I have a mission. Later I just categorize that way, but I just want to be a bridge between Issei and the Nisei. And I joined the Nikkeijinkai, call for Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland, those days, Nikkeijinkai, 1953, that's a long time ago. And somehow just get to know the community is one thing, just want to be a member, I repeatedly say this, want to be accepted member. And on top of that, those days, we have only just a few handful Nisei for members. And at the meeting -- then I didn't take an active role in Nikkeijinkai until 1976, and I think going to become board member of Japanese Ancestral Society. And meetings took place all Japanese. It's basically, it's Issei group, and I know that Mr. Azumano was a board member. But we have a little, sometimes a little heated argument. I don't know whether I should mention the person's name. Sometime, Nisei cannot express their opinions in Japanese, so they use English, and some Issei don't understand English. It's not just daily conversation, just complicated matter, so they get upset. In some heated moment, they say, "This is a Nikkeijinkai, Japanese Ancestral Society. You speak Japanese." Then Niseis kind of counter that, "You've been living here for, forty, fifty years, you should be able to speak English," that type of thing. So at point, I... Issei speak Japanese, and I'm the interpreter, interpret to English so the Nisei understand what's going on, then vice versa. I just do, when Nisei speak, I have to translate it to Japanese. So that's, that is a time, I guess, I could be helpful for this community, and that was back in 1976. I'm still a member of the same organizations, and I'm glad, in a way, I existed. On top of that, I become a liaison for Japanese American community and the Japanese government official, I still continue to do that. But that's the one thing that I was kind of glad that I'm here to helping out particularly Issei people. And again I feel guilty for not taking care of my mother from close distance. But helping, especially Issei ladies, when I'm just driving by that I see the Issei ladies I know waiting at the bus station, I stop and give a ride, then just thinking that they are my mother. So ever since I'm serving Japanese community organizations, and I really think this is just showing that my appreciation to community, especially Issei people, that what we are today, what we are today is because of those Issei people. So again, I'm just grateful to be a member of this community.

SG: Thanks. Well, just for my own... how, so there's Issei, Nisei, and what are your feelings about the next generation of Japanese Americans in the community?

HU: You know, I serve as a board member of a different group. But I totally, I mean, respect for the young generations. They are smarter, they have a lot of experience like the rest of their, age, and I really feel that they are smarter than we are. And as they get little older, their interest in the community activities, and many organization I serve is filled with the Nisei and the Sansei. And for, at this stage, I don't say much. I just watch those young folks take actions, and I really feel that our community is safe and in good hands with those young people taking our place.

SG: Are there any words, some word or insight or some words that you would like to tell to the younger generation of Japanese Americans?

HU: Oh, not really. Then I said earlier that I feel that they are smarter than I am, and they have a good education, and time is different than our days, so I have just complete trust in their judgment. So I don't really worry about, I don't have any advice or tell more my insight. They are their own, they're smarter, and I really believe that this community is in good hand.

SG: Thank you. So this is a little change of topic, but can you tell us what your thoughts are on the secret of a long marriage?

HU: Just being honest, then help others just unconditionally. And I don't really believe in, marriage is 50/50 propositions, and one has to totally dedicate himself or herself to spouse. I say hundred percent. Both do this, then you can't go wrong. You are start weighing or you do this percentage, I did this percentage, that's the rest of yours, that type of propositions never works. You just put, give yourself hundred percent. That's my belief. I don't know, other people think differently, but that's my belief. And then my wife will share the same, and I don't, the fact is that my wife probably do maybe seventy-five percent or more than I do for her. But the point is just both sides are trying to give himself or herself to others, hundred percent and hundred percent devotion to others. That's what I believe.

SG: That's good advice. [Laughs] Is there anything more, Mr. Ueno, that we might have left out previously that you wanted to mention?

HU: No. This, coverage, I just want to convey my thoughts, the feelings to this community. Right or wrong, it's my belief. Again, appreciative you for giving me this opportunity. This is really first time I feel like I'm speaking to Nisei people of my experience. Without this opportunity, I probably never reveal my experience in Japan and then the United States, so thanks.

SG: Thank you.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.