Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Homer Yasui Interview I
Narrator: Homer Yasui
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: October 10, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-yhomer-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

MR: This is an interview with Homer Yasui, a Nisei man, seventy-eight years old, at his home in Portland, Oregon, on October 10, 2003. The interviewer is Margaret Barton Ross of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's Oral History Project 2003. Good morning, Homer, and thank you for having us in your home. Can we start out just talking about where you were born and when and your birth order in the family?

HY: Okay. I was born in Hood River, Oregon, on December 28, 1924.

MR: And how many children were there in your family, and where did you land?

HY: Well, in the very beginning, there were nine children, but two of them died in the early age. My oldest brother is eleven years, between eleven and twelve years older than me, and I was the eighth child, so next to the last, and my younger sister is two years younger than me. So there was a widespread between the oldest and the youngest.

MR: And how many boys and how many girls?

HY: Five boys and three girls.

MR: Okay. Can you describe your father and his life and work?

HY: [Laughs] That could be the subject of a whole book by itself. But yes, briefly, my father was a very intense individual. Physically, he was quite small, but he was, I wouldn't say brainy, but he was quite intelligent, and he had great ambition. He had spacious dreams. He wanted to accomplish things in this world. But one of the things that he realized very early is that there was such a thing as prejudice and discrimination. It was not easy in those days when he arrived in the United States --which was 1903 -- to do other than physical work, and he came over with the idea of actually working on the railroad. But he was small, and he couldn't really keep up with the railroad work because that was very physically demanding. So eventually, he decided, well, he came to the United States to get an education specifically to learn English and also to get an American education. And moreover, by the time he was eighteen -- this is two years after he got here -- he decided he was going to stay permanently in the United States, and this is what he did. But it's most unusual for someone at that age, eighteen, deciding he's going to stay forever in the United States, and he even tried to prevail upon his two older brothers to do that. But as I say, my father was quite ambitious, so he realized that, hey, if he's going to stay in this country forever, he's not going to spend time carrying railroad ties and replacing railroads and things like that. So he went to school in Portland at the Couch Street School, the old one, and eventually got an education. He became, because of his great determination, he learned English quite well. He wasn't perfect. He wasn't letter perfect because Japanese is always his first language, but he was very, very good. He could type -- not real well -- but he could type, and his grammar was quite good. His accent was pretty good, so I would say that his conversational ability in English was far superior to most comparable Issei of his age. There were others that were good too, but he was one of the better ones. And because of his ambition, he wanted to get ahead in the world. And I don't know if he wanted to make a mark in the world, but he wanted to make, secure enough money so he didn't have to worry about finances and so on. So to that end, he was a pretty astute business entrepreneur too. So he got into real estate in Hood River, and eventually he wound up in the, together with my brother, my uncle rather, not my brother, my uncle, ended up owning about 1000 acres roughly, 800 to 1000 acres of farm property, and this is all producing land. So he became in those days probably a wealthy man. And at the same time, the Yasui brothers were running a general mercantile store in Hood River which also handled Japanese goods and things like that, so they were doing quite well getting, they had recovered pretty well from the Depression in 1929, and things were really looking up when boom, Pearl Harbor came and that shattered his world.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MR: And when did your mother come?

HY: My mother came in 1912. Let me say something about my mother. She and my father knew each other in this little tiny village, tiny, tiny village called Nanukaichi in Japan, and my mother always thought he was an ornery little kid. And she, he was a couple years older, but she never thought much of him when she knew him in Nanukaichi, in Japan. But then eventually when they both became of age, he started looking for a wife, and since they knew each other, he had my uncle, Uncle Renichi Fujimoto, kind of act as what they call a nakoudo or a baishakunin, an in-between to arrange a marriage, and that's how they got married. But she came in 1912.

MR: And same question. Could you describe your mother?

HY: Okay. My mother was a kind of, for that day and age, probably better than average educated woman because she went to two years of college and what we'd call a normal school or teacher's school now, and she specialized in home economics, flower arranging and cooking and so on. So she was not as driven as my father, well, I don't know if my father was driven. He was ambitious. My father was not one to sit back and let things take, happen to him. He's the one that's going to direct things. My mother wasn't like that. She was quite the opposite. She would let things come to her, and she'd handle it the best she can, so there was a difference in personality. But anyway, she was very gentle and very easy to get along with, but she was better educated than my father. She never let him know that, but she was, and she was interested in the arts and culture and the literature and things like that. But at the same time, she's very domestic because her specialty was home economics. And after all, she raised nine kids, so you're going to like kids too. So yeah, my mother was a very nice person.

MR: Did your mother learn English?

HY: Well, you know, Margaret, in those days, the Japanese women had very poor, very limited opportunities to learn English, and this is especially true in the rural areas, and you have to make a mental demarcation between the rural and the urban areas because in town, like Portland, women worked in restaurants. They worked in laundry. They worked in factories and so on, so they were exposed to a smattering of English. In the farms that was not true because the women generally were stuck out in the farm, and they had no one to communicate in English to except the children. So most Issei women in my generation that I knew in Hood River did not speak English well, and my mother was no exception. Her English was probably a little bit worse than survival English. In other words, if she was all alone in the big city, I don't think she could have gotten about and made her needs known. In Hood River, she could do that because there were lots of Issei and lots of help there, but her English was poor.

MR: As she was in the home taking care of nine children, did she even have time to appreciate the things she enjoyed, the flower arranging, the arts?

HY: Yeah. Well, in the beginning of course not because the kids are very demanding. You got to eat and be put to bed. The diapers got to be changed and all that. But as we grew up and became a little bit more independent, I'd say, oh, around teenage, my oldest sister -- well, she wasn't really my oldest sister, my next to the oldest sister because my oldest sister died in infancy. But my next to older sister Michi took over, relieved my mother of some of her chores like cooking and grocery shopping. So my mother was able to indulge in some of her hobbies and desires, but this came when she was, oh gosh, must have been shortly before World War II beginning in the '36, '37, '38, '39, and so on. So yes, so she would voluntary teach things like tea ceremony and flower arranging. You know, that was her specialty because that's what she was taught. That's what she trained to be a teacher for. So just about the time the war begins, she was getting into a lot of these little activities. Another thing that she enjoyed was writing poetry called senryu. It's a type of Japanese poetry. So she was getting into that, so, but the war again changed things.

MR: This poetry, what was it, specific about it?

HY: Well, there are several types of Japanese poetry. The one everybody knows is haiku, five-seven-seven-five whatever. And then senryu is something like that, but it deals more with nature and humor. And then there's tanka which is a different type. Maybe it was tanka that my mother was in. I'm not sure, but it's one of those poetry that she wrote. It was very popular in those days, still is.

MR: You said that your sister helped around the house.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: What did the boys do? Did they work in the family business at all?

HY: Well, yes. Our situation in Hood River, we were a big family in Hood River, about the only Japanese family in Hood River that lived there any extended period of time, and we did have a store which was within walking distance of our home. So particularly, during the busy season which was the Christmas holiday and especially New Year's because that's, to the Japanese, New Year's is a big thing. So we'd go down there and help stock the shelves and sweep up the floor, things like that. When the boys, my brothers, older boys were older, they would help my mother by driving her around the countryside taking orders for groceries and so on. Yasui Brothers did that because, out of necessity because there was a grocery store in Portland called Furuya, and they sent people from Portland, drove all the way up to Hood River sixty-plus miles to take orders, and Furuya would also deliver Japanese goods. So my older brother who were capable of driving drove my mother around, and they'd go out, oh, three, four times a week, I suppose, in the mornings and at night to get these orders. The biggest thing for me and my next older brother, who is Shu, was helping on the inventory, and that was kind of a dull job, but at the same time very interesting because we encountered... in those days, inventory was taken by hand. There's no computer, nothing like that. So we'd have a big ledger, and we'd write everything by hand, and he'd tell me what it was in English, and I'd write it down, and then we'd leave my uncle to figure out what everything was worth later on, so that's the way we did the inventory. But that took a month or more because we inventoried everything, chopsticks, paper napkins, and everything. It was a tedious job. But at the same time as I say, it's kind of fun because we'd encountered some Japanese things that we don't know how to describe. For example, you know what mizuhiki is?

MR: No.

HY: Well, mizuhiki is a formalized paper of colored Japanese strings. You know, you look at it, and some of them are very ornate, very, very nice looking. It's usually applied to something like a special wedding gift or even funerary gifts or something, usually it's money. But the colored paper strings, making an inventory -- remember we're fourteen, fifteen year old boys. My brother looking at it, "Colored Jap strings," so I'd write it down. [Laughs] Then later on, my aunt or, we'd have to translate this to my mother or to my aunt what we said here because it's in English, and they knew it in Japanese. They do the inventory in Japanese. So it says colored Jap strings. What's colored Jap strings? Well, we finally figured out mizuhiki is what it's called. Oh, they were funny days.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MR: You've mentioned your uncle a couple of times. Was he in your family group or where did he stay?

HY: Uncle Dotso was really special to the Yasui children. He, let me give you a brief history there. He was adopted by a childless maiden and, when he was five years old. Well, let me back up. His real name was Renichi Yasui, and he was the middle brother between the three Yasui or Issei brothers, okay. The oldest one was Taitsuro, the second was Renichi, and then my father was the youngest, Masuo. At age five, Renichi, the middle son, was adopted by his Aunt Haru because she was childless. And so when he was adopted, his name was changed from Renichi Yasui to Renichi Fujimoto, and that's the way he was mostly named, but not always, there was exceptions. So these brothers grew up knowing that they're blood brothers, but Chan, my uncle Renichi, was physically moved to a little village called Aono which is a few miles away from Nanukaichi, and that's where he grew up and went to school. So physically, they were separated, but they always knew that they were brothers. That's the way it was very, well, I don't know how common it was in Japan, but that's the way they did it in those days.

So when my uncle came over, he preceded my father to the United States by working on the railroad two years before. And when my father proposed in 1908 that the Yasui brothers, that's Taitsuro, Renichi, and Masuo, pool their resources and buy a store in Hood River because one was for sale, that they do that, so they did. But my oldest uncle, Taitsuro, decided well, keeping shop is not for him, so he demanded his share of the money back, and he went back to Japan. But my second uncle, Uncle Renichi, decided to stay to win his fortune with my father and stay in Hood River, so he did. He stayed the rest of his life in Hood River. And so from 1908, he was there, and my Uncle Renichi, he was different in personality and character. He was much more easygoing than my father, and he again like my mother, he let things come to him and then he'd handle it. My father would do the other way around. He'd go out and find things to do. But my Uncle Renichi -- we used to call him Renichi -- not Renichi -- we used to him Chan. And the reason why we called him Chan is that's a diminutive endearing term the Japanese use for older people frequently, but we call him Chan because in Japanese, the word for uncle is ojisan. But as little kids, two and three and four, five years old, it's easier to say ojichan not ojisan, so we used, eventually, it was ojichan and then eventually became Chan.

Now there's another anecdote that I have to tell you about Chan. He was also known very affectionately as Uncle Dotso. The way that came about is because we had a farmhand that worked on our property out in Odell and he stuttered very badly, but he was a real comedian, and he and Frank would get together, and my uncle would say, "Oh, Frank, how's the farm going?" "Oh, fine, fine, fine." And then my uncle, he'd stop us, "Dotso, Dotso, lots of pears." "Oh, yeah, lots of pears, hey big deal, lots of pears." Oh, Dotso -- and so Frank Bush started calling him Uncle Dotso because Uncle Dotso -- he'd always say, "Dotso, Dotso." So eventually, that's what we called him, but always in a loving way. We never, we never picked on our uncle, and he took it very well. He laughed. He's a great guy, great, great, and he was kind of our surrogate father. He treated every one of his nine nieces and nephews as if they were very special like, "Hey, you're the only kid for me," and you know, that takes real talent to do that. And he made, every one of the Yasui children says, "I was Dotso's favorite child," everyone said that. Even today, they say that. God, that takes someone special to do that, real good guy.

MR: Did he ever have children of his own?

HY: He was childless. He and my, well, there's a good reason for that. Shall I tell you this anecdote too? He got married in 1904, okay. He went after his wife in 1928, and that's why he had no kids, I think. He got married in 1904 in Japan. Then he came back to the United States in 1906 working on the railroad. He stayed in the United States from 1906 until 1928 working on the railroad. And twenty, twenty-four years later, he goes back to get his wife. We call her Obasan. He brought her back to the United States to Hood River to live with us, so no kids. He was in his forties. They were both in their forties when he went back after her. That was a little bit different but not unheard of among the Japanese, probably among the Chinese too. But that was different that they had no kids, so we were her, his surrogate children.

MR: And what did she do in Japan for twenty whatever years?

HY: Twenty-four years. Well, mostly, this is again, I don't know how typical it is, but she went, moved in with his adopted parents Hana and Chojiro Fujimoto and lived with them and helped take care of them in their old age. And they were still alive when he went back after her, Obasan, but I don't know what happened after, to my other aunt and uncle. I don't know who took care of them after that because Obasan did come back to the United States, so I'm not sure what happened on that, Margaret.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MR: And so he worked in the store. What was the division of labor between the Yasui brothers with the business?

HY: Oh, well, they, my father and my Uncle Renichi had what I think is a very nice, to me a very highly unique relationship. In my entire life, I've never heard them express any anger at each other or disappointment or anything. I mean, they got along so well. You know, it's almost awesome because they didn't communicate all that much, you know. I don't know how they did it, but they never exchanged a cross words. And somehow, they worked out the division of labor so that my uncle controlled the store. He ran the store. My father did the entrepreneurial thing which is speculating in farms and translating and writing letters and putting in the orders for my uncle, you know. But my uncle would ask my father to write an order to order two hundred sacks of rice or twenty kegs of fish and things like that, and my father would do all that. But my father never, never interfered with the operation of the store, and it worked the other way around. My uncle never interfered with buying farm property. He used my uncle's money, but he never questioned. [Laughs] As far as I know, he never challenged him because they were full partners in everything. What my father owned, my uncle owned half of too. I've never seen a relationship quite like that. It's just remarkable how they got along. But then my uncle called all the shots on the farm, I mean on the store and my father on the farm.

MR: Can you describe the atmosphere of the store, how it looked, and how it smelled and felt?

HY: Well, I have to tell you from memory of a seventeen year old kid which is my freshest memory because that's when we left. But to me, the smell of the store was an Oriental smell because of the mixture of spices and sawdust on the floor because that's the way they swept the floor. They put oiled sawdust on the floor because wooden floor, and things like rakkyo. You know what rakkyo is? It's pickled scallions, and it has an odor, and it's, you've been in Chinese grocery stores? Okay. It has a different smell. It's not unpleasant or anything. It's just different because they have different products, dried fish and so on. Well, our store was not quite like that. It wasn't a fishy smell, but they had things like rakkyo and sometimes takuan which is pickled, type of pickles, and it had other things like nori, and so there'd be a different smell. And the store itself we thought was kind of funky because my uncle would be the only operator most of the time, and he had just all kinds of showcases. It was just filled with showcases, and there was hardly any room for the customers to move around. And in those days, and this is true of almost all stores, the customers did not help themselves. They'd just come up to the front counter, and they, give the order to the proprietor or the clerk, and the proprietor fills out, you take your can off of here and the box is something there, and assemble all the things and put it in a box on the counter, and that's the way it worked in those days. And so my uncle did all that himself including carrying up a hundred pound sacks of rice on his shoulder. He was a strong man. He was about two hundred pounds. This is from the basement. Those things are heavy. So he'd do all of that, and he'd take care of it all himself. And of course, his English was left a little bit to be desired. So as a child, as a young person, I was sometimes embarrassed to hear him talk, particularly, well not particularly, to the Caucasian customers because his English was not all that good. My father's was not perfect, but it was a heck of a lot better than my uncle's. So yeah, the relationship with my uncle... Uncle Dotso was a greatest guy, he really was.

MR: Was the store like a social center for the community, the Japanese American community?

HY: Oh, yeah, very definitely it was. It was open every day except Sundays. So of course, it was a very easy place for the Japanese. In time that we're speaking of when I was growing up before the war, there were approximately, close to five hundred Japanese in the valley itself, and the valley is small, you know. It's only ten, eight to ten miles wide and twenty-one miles long maybe. So in that narrow area, there were a lot of people. So they would come to the store particularly on the weekend, and a lot of the men would have other things to do, you know. They have to get farm machinery, fertilizer, go to the Apple Growers' Association, and other business. So they would make the purchases, then they would have time to kill, so sometimes they would sit down. My uncle used to have rows of chairs in the store itself, and sometimes the men would sit down, and they'd read the paper and they'd gossip. In the old, old days, they even had a little kind of an anteroom in the back with a potbellied stove and men can read the newspaper. This is almost before I can remember, but I've seen pictures. My brothers just told me about that. So yes, it was, and in the old, old days, it was even more than that. It was also a mail drop where the Isseis got their mail, and they even provided a type of a banking service because in 1919, my father and my uncle and a few of the Isseis did set up a Japanese savings association, and the headquarters was in the Yasui Brothers store. So it was the, oh, I would say it was a nerve center for the Japanese community until the church opened which was not until 1927.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MR: And what was the church?

HY: Well, church actually was not formally constructed as a church. It was made into a Japanese community hall. The primary movers of that were the Japanese Methodist congregants, and there were maybe a dozen or so. They said well, we got to have a place to meet and have church and school, social gathering, so on. So in 1926 or around there, the core group, nucleus group solicited money from the rest of the valley of Japanese in order to build this church which was on West Sherman Avenue in Hood River. And so they bought this property from donated, the land was donated, and they built this church over a two year period of time and built a, oh, pretty big community hall. It wasn't a church. That's a misnomer. It was a community, Japanese community hall. It's a two-story one, and eventually most, this is up until the war, 1941. Most of the large gathering in the valley took place at this Hood River Japanese community hall. Now in addition to that because of reasons that I don't know maybe competition, maybe sector in the region, I don't know, but there was also a small Japanese community hall in a little place called Dee. Are you familiar with the valley at all?

MR: A little.

HY: Dee is a very small place, but they also had a small Japanese community hall, and at one time I'm given to understand, I don't know this for a fact, that there was also a small one in Parkdale, Oregon, too, but I don't know that. Dee I remember that one very definitely. But the reason for that I think -- this is my own impression -- is that because the Dee one was mostly Buddhist run, and so they had close connections with the Buddhist population out there; whereas, the Hood River Japanese community hall, the only church function that went on was a Japanese Methodist church, so I think that had something to do with it, although I'm not sure. The Hood River community hall was much larger because they'd show movies in there, and they'd have judo tournaments in there and Christmas programs. So it would hold maybe four hundred people at one time, so it was big.

MR: The Methodist church comes up a lot in discussions of the Japanese American community. What was it about the Methodist church that made it so important to the Japanese community?

HY: Well, in my view, Margaret, it's because the two most prominent Caucasian Methodists, they were supervisors or superintendents were Frank Herron Smith and the other one was Ulysses Grant Murphy. Ulysses Grant Murphy was a very interesting character. He was a missionary in Japan, and he got mixed up with trying to rescue the Japanese prostitutes from the mob. And for his pain, he got beat up and almost killed, so of course, that induced him to leave Japan. So he came back, but he was fluent in Japanese. And in around 1924, 1926, he used to make the circuit of the Japanese congregation: Let's see, Toppenish, Yakima, Wapato, the Dalles, Hood River, Hillsboro. This guy did it out of the goodness of his heart. I'm sure he didn't do it for money. And he'd make these circuits and come to lecture and preach in Japanese. But before that in the, according to the village where my parents came from, there were Methodist missionaries in Nanukaichi, and my father and mother had both heard of them. They didn't belong to the Methodist church; although, my father may have converted by then. I'm not sure about that. But to me, Ulysses Grant Murphy was a very important person, and he's the one that really got the Methodist church ball rolling. And then after, that was -- their headquarters was in Seattle. The other one was the, I forgot the name of it, but Frank Herron, Doctor Frank Herron Smith was a minister. He was also a missionary. This was a big imposing guy, beautiful baritone voice, and he'd belt off these songs in Japanese [sings]. He was good, but he could lecture and speak in Japanese too. And so it was these two guys as far as I'm concerned that really brought the Methodists into the flock. Now, let me backtrack a little. The other person was Teikichi Kawabe who came to Portland in 1893, and he opened the Japanese, in those days, they called it the Methodist Episcopal Mission. Later on, it became straight Methodist. But Kawabe was also a Methodist minister. Why it was Methodist rather than Presbyterian or Baptist or Catholic, I'm not sure. Maybe it was fortuitous, I don't know. But those three people I think were the key to making so many of the Japanese, even today, a lot of them are Methodist in this area.

MR: Back to your early family life, what were your parents' hopes for their children and did they make it clear to you?

HY: Well, yes, they always made it clear, especially my father. You know, my father was a very determined man. And boy, he was always lecturing because I think all fathers may have a tendency more so than the mothers, I know, because, mothers are nurturing and all that. Fathers are what demanding somewhat. So my father would always tell his, especially to his boys, "Always work hard, do your best, be honest, all these Christian virtues and Methodist virtues plus the samurai virtues, plus the Confucius virtues, do good, be good," so it was always stressed. But mostly in his mind, number one, education. Education was so important to him. He wanted all of his children to go to college and so on and almost all of us did. And, but fortunately, he was backed in that by my mother too who was very big on education too. And so they all... well, not all. My mother and father insisted that we further our education and do our best academically, so I don't know. I suppose it was the result of their pressure maybe, we did do all pretty good, far better than I thought, but that was highly important. Ambition was very important to them.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MR: What was your education in Hood River?

HY: Oh, well, all the Yasui children grew up in the town of Hood River as opposed to the valley or the county. So all of us children went from grade one through twelve and high school, except Yuka because she didn't quite finish. She was in, she was fifteen when the war came along. I was seventeen and in the last year of high school. So from grade one to twelve, I went all the way through, so did all my siblings except Yuka. In Hood River, they had no kindergarten in those days, so it was grade one through twelve.

MR: And as children in school, did you say that most Japanese Americans lived in the valley rural areas as opposed to the town?

HY: That's right.

MR: So where there many Japanese children in school?

HY: Well, in Hood River, the, well, let me give you a background of Hood River School. The town of Hood River had four different levels of school. There was a first and second grade which was called co-primary, and then the third through the sixth grade was called Park Street School. This is Hood River, the town of Hood River. Okay. Then the seventh through the ninth grade was the Hood River Junior High School. And then the senior high school was a sophomore through the senior grades, so there was four schools. Now, in some of the small areas, Pine Grove and Oak Grove, they didn't have any high schools, okay? So when these children in Oak Grove or Pine Grove became of high school age, that is the ninth grade now, this is the freshmen, they transferred by bus on the school buses to the junior high school. This is the third school, okay. And then by the time, when they finished the freshmen year, then they'd be transferred to the Hood River High School. So the Nikkei in Pine Grove and Oak Grove went to the Hood River Junior High School and then transferred to the senior high school. Now, in Odell and in Parkdale -- oh, the other exception is Dee. Dee didn't have any high school either. The other exception is that in the Hood River Valley, there was an Odell High School and there was also a Parkdale High School. So the Japanese from Parkdale and Dee, I mean, Parkdale and Odell did not come to Hood River. So there was an influx of Japanese students from Dee, Oak Grove, and Pine Grove, not from Parkdale or Odell. That's the way it worked.

MR: So in school, there weren't so many Japanese children. What were your relations with Caucasian children like?

HY: Well, yes and no on that, Margaret. In the beginning up until about the freshmen year in junior high school, there weren't very many Japanese children. In fact, when I stop to think about it, probably just the Yasui children and the Karasawa and the Nakagawa families are the only one that had any children up until the freshmen year in high school in school. So we, maybe there'd be one in each class of about twenty, twenty-five people, so we stuck out like sore thumbs, all of us, you know. And then in the beginning when my oldest brother Kay went to school, he didn't know any English, you know. He was brought up Japanese. So he had a hard time learning English, but he was very quick, and he learned very quickly. And then, but I was number eight in my family, so of course, all my older siblings spoke English. So by the time I went to school, I knew it just like a native, so, and I was very good at it. But in the beginning, it wasn't for the oldest one, and that's true of most Nisei. Now I'm talking about older Niseis. They didn't know English when they started, so they had a little bit tough time. Then the younger siblings came along, much easier. But my relationship, personal relationship with the Caucasian was okay. It was not what I'd tell outstanding, great, because I always knew that I was minority because people made it known to me that I was. I was different. This is my own subjective, personal opinion on that. I don't know how my, well, I do have a feeling that some of my own siblings feel that it wasn't like that. They were perfectly accepted. So it's an individual affair and an opinion. Mine is that I always knew, and I still know.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MR: Growing up in Hood River, obviously, your father was very prominent and helpful in the community.

HY: Yeah.

MR: And how did it feel to be a child of someone so influential?

HY: Well, ambivalent for me. Speaking personally for myself, I knew that my father was influential, you know. For example, I knew that he was the only Japanese member of the Rotary Club. I knew that he was the only Japanese who was on the board of directors of the Apple Growers Association. I knew that he was a leader of the Japanese community and the spokesperson, and so, in that sense, I was proud. But at the same time, when I'd hear him get up to make a speech or something, I'd detect these little nuances, and just being a hypercritical kid, "Hey, that's wrong," just very little minor things. It didn't... the substance of the speech was fine. It's just that the little inflections and the nuances, and I'd be kind of embarrassed for him and embarrassed for myself because my father was like that. He didn't know English that well, and he was a slight man too, and sometimes he'd act bigger than he was. [Laughs] So it was ambivalent for me. Now, that's not true of all my siblings because I speak only for myself on that one.

MR: You used the term "spacious dreams" when you described your father, and he was a forward thinking person.

HY: Oh, very much so.

MR: Do you know why or how he was so convinced that the American dream was for him?

HY: Well, I don't know why he thought that. I know that he came over with the idea. I can document this because we have some of his old letters that goes all the way back to 1903, and in it, he's written that this is a great land. You know, he's the one that wrote to my uncle and said, "You should plan to stay in this great land of freedom." My uncles were working on the railroad in Divide, Montana. He's eighteen years old, and he's writing on this, planned to stay in this country, planned to learn the language, planned to stay here. But I don't know why he was so motivated to do that. I guess he probably felt that his opportunities were better. And as it turned out, it was, because at home in Nanukaichi, his father was a small landowner, not a businessman, nothing like that. His brother did turn out to be a very successful businessman, so I assume, I don't know. I assume that my father figured well, he's going to be a small landowner just like his father; in other words, a farmer. He didn't want to be just a farmer. He wanted to own farm and not just run 'em.

MR: Hood River seem to attract a good number of Japanese people. What was it about Hood River?

HY: Well, I think probably one of the major factors is it's a beautiful place, and it's kind of reminiscence of some places and lots of places in Japan. It's mountainous, it's got green trees, it's got water, it's got rivers, it's got lakes, it's got Mount Hood, you know. And some of the Japanese would be very fanciful and say, oh, Mount Hood, niniteru, looks like Mount Hood. Well, it doesn't, I mean not Mount Hood, Mount Fuji. It doesn't really look like Mount Fuji, but I mean, it's a snow-capped mountain. So they would make these allusions, and so that appealed to them. The other thing that appealed to them I think is because there was work to be done there, lots of work. And in those days, it was clearing, this was for men, clearing the land of stump from sawed off logs, land from the Oregon Lumber Company. So at one time, there was about six hundred Japanese in that valley clearing out stumps, so they got jobs doing that. And a lot of them, not a lot of them, a few of them, instead of getting paid money, they were paid in land. They got a small portion of land they cleared. So here was a chance for them to become landowners and relatively easily. It was hard work, but, in those days, the alien land law was still not enforced, so they could own land in their own name, so they did. And I think that was another reason why because they had an opportunity to become independent landowners. Hard work, yes, but they can own something of their own.

MR: Hood River had a notorious reputation early on for conflict or tension between the communities. Were you aware of that as a child?

HY: No. I wasn't aware of it as a child. You know where I mostly found out about that was during the war. As a child, no, I didn't know that there was such thing as the Anti-Asiatic League. I knew there was an American Legion. I had kind of funny feelings about the American Legion, but I didn't really think or know at that time that there was so many rabble, diehard, "two hundred percent Americans" in that outfit. I didn't know that. It was during the war that all this came. And subsequently, too, since the war, I've read, my god, I knew a lot of these people. I never knew they felt that way. One of the most hurtful things to me is one of my schoolteachers, a shop teacher, was one of these real rabble guys that wanted to keep us out of the valley. He went to extreme measures to do that, and it's my teacher. Holy cow, I never knew that. But at the time, I didn't know it. It was something I found out later. That was a bitter blow.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MR: When you were on your own and enjoying yourself as a young teenager in Hood River, what was it that you liked to do to get away from such a big family and enjoy yourself?

HY: Oh, well, my greatest pleasure was hunting and fishing. I used to do a lot of fishing in those days. And you know, in those days, fishing was so easy. Our equipment was relatively crude, you know. We'd use a bamboo, not a bamboo, a steel telescopic rod, go down to a little place called Indian Creek. In an hour or so, you catch all the fish you want, more than you'd want. You bring it home. People don't want to fish, not in Hood River not in those days, not trout, but you'd fish for it and a lot release it. Then later on as I got a little older, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, I got interested in bird hunting, so I did a lot of bird hunting particularly with a friend named Gerald Foster who everybody called "Fish Foster." Fish and I used to go out even before school in the morning and drive to Viento which is maybe five miles west of Hood River and go duck hunting, half an hour or so, and then we'd go back to school. We did a lot of hunting and fishing together. The, that was my greatest part although I love to read too.

MR: Besides going hunting with your friend and studying hard, were there extracurricular activities sponsored by the school that you took part in?

HY: Well, athletics. Athletics was the biggest one, and I did play high school baseball, made the baseball team and the tennis team, but I was only a mediocre athlete unlike my older brothers, some of whom were very good and made the squad four years in a row, but I didn't do that. But still it was fun. And the other thing, other extracurricular activities, this is strictly a Japanese thing, but they had an athletic organization called the Nisei Athletic Club, NAC, and they sponsored basketball, and I was no good at basketball ever, and baseball, and I'm okay at that. So in the summertime, we'd have a lot of fun doing that. And they would, not the NAC, but there were also Japanese American social functions particularly sponsored by the church, not dances so much because... you know Methodists were funny in those days. They thought that was a sin. Dancing was a sin and gambling was a sin and drinking was a sin and going to the movies was a sin. Oh, man, but that's the way they were in those days. But every now and then, there'd be, they'd have dances, and I was seventeen and, man, I was so dumb. I was green as grass and didn't know what women were for. [Laughs] So anyway, growing up was very interesting in Hood River in those days.

MR: And as I, as we have mentioned before, school and academics were very important in your family. What do you think it was that produced in you and your siblings this incredible drive to be the best?

HY: Oh, my father, my father and mother. They were, they weren't always needling us about that. But my father especially, he was very, very good in promoting his ideas especially with the kids because we got no defense. We'd answer, "Yes, Dad, Yes, Papa. Hai, hai, hai, yes, Papa." So when he'd tell us, we'd say, we'd try to do it. But my mother was much more gentle. She would kind of tell parables, says, "You could have your money lost, can steal your house, your health can be broken, but nobody can steal your education." She was a lot more subtle than my father. My father said, "Do it," say, "Yes, Papa."

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MR: So you're a senior in high school and you start in 1941, things are looking pretty good, I suppose. All of a sudden, Pearl Harbor, what did you think when that happened?

HY: Oh, boy. My heart sank down to my toes. I says, "Oh, my god. What's going to happen?" You know, I'm thinking about me. "What's going to happen to me now? Gee, Japan attacked the United States. What are my friends going to think? What are the people of Hood River going to think? How's it going to affect me?" because I was a suffering boy in those days. I didn't think about my parents or anybody. I thought, "Hey, what's it going to do to me?" And so at that time when it did happen, I was out playing sandlot football with my friends in the neighborhood, and my father came running home and signaled me to come home. When he told us breathlessly what had happened, oh, god, now it's going to be terrible because, see, I already was aware that there was prejudice and discrimination in Hood River. Again, this is my personal perception. My siblings may tell you otherwise; oh, they never knew it because you will hear this from Issei that they had, no, everything was peachy dandy great. To me, it was not peachy dandy great, never was, because I always knew, and I always knew the reason. There was a reason, but I didn't, sometimes didn't know the reason why it was, but I knew it was there. So for me, I said, "Oh, man, this is going to be tough," and you know, it was tough.

MR: You were seventeen and the youngest, the second youngest, so where was everybody else at this point?

HY: Well, let's see, starting from the top, my oldest brother, they called him Chop, was married and expecting his first child. Min was working for the Japanese consulate in Chicago, that's the second brother. Michi, who's the third child, my oldest sister, was a senior at the University of Oregon. Roku, the fourth child... no, no. Wait a minute, let me back up. Let me back up. The first, very first child was Kay, and he died of suicide at the age of seventeen in 1931. Then came Ray "Chop" Tsuyoshi, and he was married and had a child on his way. Min was the third child, and he was in Chicago working for the consul. The fourth child was Yuki. Yuki was the sister I never knew. She was born in 1920, 1918 or something and died in 1922, so I never knew her. I was born in '24. Then Michi, the sister who's still living, she was a senior at the University of Oregon to graduate that year. Then Roku, which incidentally in Japanese can also mean "six," and he was the sixth child. He was a transfer student from the university of, Northwestern University, the University of Michigan. So that's where he was, University of Michigan. And then Shu who's immediately above me, he was a freshman at the University of Oregon. And then there's me, and I was a senior at the Hood River High School. And then there's Yuka who is a, was a sophomore at the Hood River High School. That's all the children.

MR: So everybody was pretty scattered?

HY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. The only two at home, really at home, was Yuka and me, yeah.

MR: Did your parents make any attempt to get everybody together or communicate at that point?

HY: No, because you have to understand, Margaret, immediately after Pearl Harbor was a massive roundup of the Issei, first generation, particularly of the men almost exclusively, and my father was picked up in that dragnet, not on Pearl Harbor day but on December 12th of, five days afterwards. And he was immediately taken to Multnomah County jail and subsequently transferred to a bunch of other places. So that immediately cut our family in half almost, and our mother as I say was not all that proficient. So it kind of devolved upon me to be the quasi father of the family because I knew English, could read and write it. But the problem is there was also a curfew law that came along later on. So my oldest Ray, Chop, who lived in Odell, which is about nine miles away, couldn't come in very frequently anymore because, you couldn't go more than five miles beyond your home after the curfew. So it devolved upon me to do a lot of these through instructions from our mother. I had to be the translator. But my younger sister Yuka also was very helpful too because she, of course, knew English, so we had to do a lot of the letter reading and reading the newspaper and so on. So my mother did the best she could. But see she's handicapped by not being, knowing, able to read and write English, and that makes a huge difference. So consequently, she had to depend on her dumb little kids to help her out, do the right thing, so it was hard.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MR: And your father was arrested. Were there charges against him?

HY: Not immediately. They didn't, they didn't give any of the Issei any reason for their arrest. They says, "Hey, you come with us. You're an enemy alien, and that's good enough." So this massive roundup, there were thousands of Issei. Not only Issei, but you have to understand German aliens, some Italian aliens were rounded up too, and there were very few Issei women, too, that were rounded up. So when you say charges, there were never any formal charges. There was never any trial. So if a charge is pressed during a trial, then there was no charges because none of them ever had a trial. They had hearings. Hearings are not trials. And so I would say that there were no charges pressed against, they didn't say, "You are accused of being disloyal to the United States because you did so and so." They didn't do it that way. They says, "Well, we think that you're a danger to the country," and that was the charge. So I say, no, there were no charges.

MR: Just held.

HY: What?

MR: Just held.

HY: Oh, yeah. Well, they had what they call hearings. They said hearings to determine whether this person should still be kept in custody or not. They had those.

MR: From December to when you were sent to the assembly center, what was the mood?

HY: What was the what?

MR: The mood.

HY: Oh, very somber. Oh, yes, scary too because one thing, the rumors were rife. You know, you read the papers. If you take a look at the newspapers from hindsight of sixty years, my god, they heard that the Japanese army's moving into the Dutch East Indies and threatening Malaysia and so on, and the Philippines are falling, and holy cow, all these bad things are happening. And then every now and then, there'd be such things as "Jap spy arrested." My brother Min, "Jap spy arrested March 28th." And headlines, man, there's a picture of my big brother, the "Jap spy arrested." So hey, these are scary times, very, very, uncertain and unsettled time. And being only seventeen, you're relatively resilient. But can you imagine how it must have felt to the Issei women who didn't even understand what was going on? God, that was pitiable, really terrible.

MR: So the Issei men were gone. Your father --

HY: Well, not all of them, not all of them.

MR: A lot of them were gone. Your father was gone.

HY: Yes.

MR: He being the one who helped people with their paperwork and, so at this time of confusion, how did people get these things taken care of?

HY: Well, in Hood River, there was a chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League. It's called the Mid-Columbia JACL. It still exists. But they got together, and they were pretty helpful in trying to help the Issei obey the regulation. For example, before the curfew law, they had alien registration. There was an alien registration in 1940, but also in 1941. There was two alien registrations. So the Mid-Columbia, they set up maybe graph brochures and pamphlets and so on, and they had, and most of the older Nisei were pretty good in Japanese. There weren't, it wasn't their first language, but they were pretty good, so they could communicate. Like my oldest brother, he could communicate any way he wanted to with the older, with the Issei. I couldn't quite do that. I couldn't quite hack the Japanese that well, but my oldest brothers could, so they helped. They were the biggest help. But after March 20th, whenever it was, 28th I guess when the curfew came along, that almost killed it because most of the valley Japanese Nisei lived in the valley, and that's mostly more than five miles away. So you couldn't go from say Dee to Odell, you could go to Odell, but you couldn't go from Dee to Pine Grove because it's more than five miles. You had to have special military permission to do that, and the military authority almost never granted it, almost never. For whatever reason, they didn't.

MR: You just mentioned your brother got arrested. You'll probably talk about that later, but can you briefly explain his arrest?

HY: Well, my brother Min was an attorney, and he felt that General DeWitt's curfew order was blatantly discriminatory because this curfew order said that all persons of Japanese ancestry, all persons of Japanese ancestry and all alien German and all alien Italian had to be within their domicile, places of residence, between eight p.m. and six a.m. in the morning. And further, they could not travel more than five miles from a radius from their home, and they were not supposed to meet, and there were certain other restrictions. And my brother says, "That's discriminatory because this law says that Japanese American citizens are under this regulation too," and he says, "That's not right. That's incorrect." So he decided to challenge that. He challenged it and he lost. He lost big.

MR: At a time when the JACL was, and most Japanese Americans too were thinking that compliance was the way to show their loyalty, what was it about your brother that just made him stand up for his rights?

HY: Well, this is a very complex problem, but Min was a very idealistic person, and he thought the rule of law superseded everything, you know. And so in this particular case, it was the principle. He said that hey, this law is discriminatory because it singles out only persons of Japanese ancestry who are American citizens who has to obey this curfew, and he was right. He was subsequently proven right on that, but it took forty years to do that. But on the other hand, he also was instrumental... well, not instrumental. He actually did, he advised the Heart Mountain draft resistance of which there was sixty-three, he said, "Obey the law because that's settled law. This has been settled since the American Civil War. So if you violate this law, you're going to go to jail, so, you guys shouldn't do that." But see, that's a very difficult situation. I think that what he said, one was settled law, that is the draft resistance, and the other one was not settled law. It was a challenge to a new law, and the time they're challenged is when it comes up. So I think that's what motivated him, but I never had firsthand discussions to ask him, well, why did you do, one, it seems rather different, doesn't it? I mean, it's contradictory. One, he says, "Obey the law," and the other hand says, "Don't obey the law," how come. So that's, even to this day, there are people who have great trouble reconciling the different stances on that. I think that's the way it worked.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MR: When did you find out you would be leaving Hood River?

HY: Oh, I don't remember that, but I would guess, Margaret, that it's probably in the newspapers, and certainly it was on the telephone posts, the city bulletin board, and so on, probably a month or so before, but see, I'm just going off the top of my head. The reason I say that is because some people says they didn't know until the 11th. I said, "That can't be right." It just doesn't make any sense to me because, for example, if you go back and look at the newspaper, it tells you that they had people from Bainbridge Island who left in March of 1942. If they left -- Bainbridge Island is in the Puget Sound -- and other people are leaving, it's in the newspapers. I say, hey, it's only a matter of time before it's going to fall on you. Generally, the rule... not the rule, the impression is that our people had at least two weeks' time, but there are many exceptions of that. For example, the Terminal Islanders had forty-eight hours, actually forty documented, forty-eight hours' notice that they had to leave. They had forewarnings that this might happen, but they had only forty-eight hours. Bainbridge Islanders had only I think one week, but they also had forewarning that it could happen. So we had forewarning, but I think we had two weeks real formal notice that we're leaving.

MR: And what assembly center did you go to?

HY: Oh, we went to the one called Pinedale Assembly Center which is near Fresno.

MR: What's foremost in your memory about Pinedale?

HY: Hot. Oh, man, it was hot. Remember, we're from the mild, cool, breezy if not wet Pacific Northwest, and this is in May which is, still relatively mild good weather actually in Hood River. So we go down 100,000 miles whatever it is to Fresno, California, and we get off a train, and man, it's like a furnace, just blazing hot. The sun is a ball of fire up there, and there's no shade. We're not dressed for that because you know what, most of us put on our good clothes to travel, you know. We weren't dressed for summer wear. God, it was hot there, yes, so everybody was sweating. It was blasted hot. And also, going off to Pinedale, I said, "Oh, god, what a bleak place this is." The only interesting thing to me was the three sides or two sides of the camp compound itself had green fig trees, and I'd never really seen fig orchard before. Well, that's kind of interesting. But the overall impression of it, man, this place is too hot for me.

MR: So the heat was a main challenge for the Oregon intern --

HY: Well, for me it was. I think for the others it may be something else, maybe the strangeness and this fear, uncertainty. But for me, the heat was the thing.

MR: And how did you spend your time in Pinedale?

HY: Well, you know Margaret, at my age, seventeen, very adaptable and thought I knew everything, and I said, "Well hey, this is a real interesting thing. I'm thrown in with four thousand other Japanese." I've never seen that many before except when we were in Japan for a visit. Well, that's very interesting. They look like me, they talk like me, they act like me, they eat like me, they stink like me, and everything else. So well, that's interesting. But you know, a bunch of girls my age, just my hormones were just beginning to pump about then, you know. So I said, "Oh, that's very interesting too." So for me, it was kind of fun. Now, I think that some Nisei, some Nikkei think it's almost a sin to admit that you could have fun in a bad situation. But human beings are intensely adaptable, and they can have fun under the most unusual circumstances, and I had fun. There were bad times of course, but lots of it was real adventuresome and exciting to me and interesting to me, and I had fun.

MR: And who in your family was at Pinedale with you?

HY: Well, my brother and his wife, pregnant wife, was in a separate unit. They had a different family, and my Uncle Renichi and Aunt Matsuyo was another separate unit. They had a different number. And then my mother, Yuka, and me was in a separate unit, so we were all in different barracks. But we're all in the same camp which is only what maybe a mile square, but this was Pinedale.

MR: And so how long were you there and then where did you go after that?

HY: Well, let's see, we were in Pinedale from May, June, July, three months, about three months, and then we were transferred in about the middle of July to Tule Lake which was a big camp just below the Oregon/California border.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MR: I was just going to ask you about Franklin Roosevelt. In the light of the War Department and even the FBI advising him that internment wasn't really necessary, why do you think he went ahead and did it?

HY: Well, I think it's because Roosevelt was prejudice. I think that from the time he was the Secretary of the Navy, he had ideas that the Japanese are not to be trusted because there are several books now written about Roosevelt's prior, I can't remember, Stimmet's one of them. But anyway, from about 1921, Roosevelt had ideas that the Japanese were not to be trusted. And one of his notions was that I think that when he was still Secretary of the Navy, that the Japanese in Hawaii who went to visit the naval, Japanese naval training ship, their names should all be taken down and put on a roster of dangerous people to be picked up in event of war hostility. So this is many years before World War II. So Roosevelt had already in my view and after reading all these books, is that he'd already made up his mind that the Japs were dangerous and not to be trusted. I mean it didn't matter whether they were citizens or alien to him. In his mind, we were the same thing. Aliens or residents, it didn't matter, Japs were Japs just like DeWitt said. Now Roosevelt doesn't come true that way popularly because he's considered a great liberal, and I think generally he was. But at the same time, a great liberal can also be highly prejudiced, and that was Roosevelt.

MR: And what was the feeling towards Roosevelt among the Japanese community?

HY: Oh, at that time, generally, generally, he was almost like a saint, a god, you know. This guy pulled us out of the Depression, I mean practically single handedly. The Depression of 1929, Roosevelt comes in '33, and he starts the NRA, and he starts the WPA, and all these projects and so on, and he's helping the Issei. He starts Social Security, all these social programs. So to the Issei who had been mostly working class, blue-collar workers, he was like a godsend, so he was like a savior. So to most Japanese Americans and Japanese Issei, he was like a savior, a god almost, so nobody really wanted to criticize Roosevelt. And it wasn't just the Japanese Americans. This man was highly, highly popular. Consider the only President who won four terms, that's amazing.

MR: And so in camp, was the feeling toward him still benevolent?

HY: Oh, yeah, very much so. Margaret, it's incredible how much the Nikkei told the government, I mean, hey, today is nothing. You know, we got people marching against Bush and so on. In those days, nobody did that, nobody did that. If you did, they'd be put in the slammer.

MR: Speaking of that, slammer, you were sent to Tule Lake, which eventually did become a prison camp among prison camps.

HY: Yeah.

MR: How was your experience at Tule Lake?

HY: Well, my experience actually was very brief, Margaret, because I was only there, as I say, from the middle of July to about the middle of September, and the reason, therefore, is because I got out on a student leave in September of, I forgot the date there, 12th, the 13th of September. This is 1942. So I wasn't there when they had the infamous questionnaire, the one that caused so much trouble, because that didn't come up until 1943, and I wasn't there, so I don't know how it was after that. The only period when I was there was summer vacation. I played a lot of baseball and went to a lot of dances. That was my experience. Oh, I did work as an orderly in the camp there too.

MR: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MR: So, and what about the rest of your family? Did they remain in camp for long?

HY: Not very long. My brother Chop and his wife... well, let me back up. Joan was their first child. She was born on July 29th just a week or so after we got to Tule Lake, and by that time, I was working as an orderly at Tule Lake. And then after she got a little bit older, he applied for a leave, work leave, seasonal work leave clearance, and he got out, and I forgot where he went, Montana or Idaho, somewhere. Then he came back from that, and he decided well that wasn't so bad, so I'll take my family out. So I think sometime in, yeah, I think it was in late 1943, he applied for work leave clearance, and he went to, moved to a place called Great Falls, Montana, with his wife and his newborn baby, himself, and he worked for a guy named, I forgot his name right offhand. But anyway, he went to work on the farm. Then my mother eventually got a leave to visit him, just to visit to that camp. And then in 1943, around February or March, my sister Yuka, the fifteen-year old, applied to go to Denver too, and she got permission to do that. So she left in March or so of '43, and my mother left I think in about April or so. So by the summer of 1943, only my Uncle Renichi and Matsuyo were in camp. The rest of us were out except my father.

MR: Except your father. So here's the, really the whole Yasui family is not in camp?

HY: Except for, well, you got to remember Min, he's in jail.

MR: Okay. So your father and your brother are in jail. But this family has removed themselves from camp in one way or another. What made your family, I mean, different? Most, it seems most families just stayed in camp and waited it out; whereas, the Yasuis, except for the two who are incarcerated, pretty much left.

HY: Why?

MR: Yeah.

HY: Well one factor, big factor, maybe the over winning factor, is we had money, could afford it. But I don't think that's the only thing. I think the other factor is because we were always taught to be independent, ambitious, and try to better yourself at all times, whatever the situation. So that weighed on us a little bit. But still in all when you stop to think about it, if you got money, you can do lots of things, you know. And we weren't wealthy, but we had enough money to buy our necessities a little bit more than that. So I think that's probably... money gives you security, right? So we had the security at least in that sense.

MR: Still, here's your father in prison. What kind of communication did you have with him?

HY: Mail. I think, I'm not positive. I'm just thinking back, but I think that they were allowed two outgoing, the internees were allowed two outgoing letters a week, and of course, they were censored. But incoming, I think they could have any amount of incoming they wanted, but outgoing was only two. And then when my father was transferred to the Santa Fe Alien Detention Center and we were living in Denver, then we visited him, not all the time, but we, well, I visited at least twice. And so many members of my family, they would visit, not for long periods of time, but that was it. But we never had any telephone conversation, but it was almost exclusively through mail.

MR: And your brother Min, what sort of communication, how did you support him as he was trying to prove his point in the court system?

HY: Well, Min had a support system that was built up of Nisei friends that he made while he was in camp, Pinedale camp and the Minidoka camp. One of them was an optometrist named Doctor George Tani who became the chairman of the Min Defense Committee, something like that. And one of the purposes, of course, is to gather moral support, but more than that monetary support, so they started taking up contributions. And Milton Maeda of Portland, he's long since deceased, was one of, I think he was the treasurer of that outfit. Another very important person was a guy named Ron Shiozaki who was also from Portland. And that core group started raising money for Min. See, the fine for Min's offense was $5,000. It was never, didn't have to be paid, but there was attorney's fees that had to be paid. But over and above that, as I say, our family was not poor. They were not millionaires but not poor, so we could afford Min's lawyer fees, so that was a big help. But I don't know how much money the Min's Defense Committee raised, but they did raise some, quite a bit I think.

MR: Did he spend the duration of the war in prison?

HY: Oh, no. He was in prison just a little bit short of nine months in the Multnomah County jail which is interesting because you see, the Multnomah County jail is in the Western Defense Command. That's interesting because the Western Defense Command kicked out all of the Japanese, but here he is stuck in the Western Defense Command. He spent nine months there in the Multnomah County Jail. So once when he went down there, "Hey, that's my old home."

MR: Now back to your mother. She's out of camp, she's with you and your sister in Denver, really on her own.

HY: Yes.

MR: Did you see any kind of change in your mother in her attitudes, and she's really having to run things now that your father's in jail.

HY: Well, she did. She had a terrible burden thrust upon her because she had, we had three Yasui kids in college. That takes a lot of money. Three because, not only tuition, but board and room and wartime financial situation as it is, so she had to have money to keep the, her kids in college. But my mother was a very strong woman. She's not flamboyant or anything like that, but she was very, very strong, and so she kept things mostly to herself. But she made the decision with the advice and consent probably of my, well, with advice and consent of my father, but particularly advice of my oldest brother Ray who helped sell the farm. So we lost... I shouldn't say lost. We sold most of the farm property during the war, so that's why we don't have much anymore as compared to before the war. So my mother did have to make these tough, tough, tough decisions, and I know it must have been excruciating for her because she wasn't used to doing this unilaterally, but it was thrust upon her, so she took hold, and she did what had to come. So it's like I told you, she'd handle what came to her, but she didn't go out looking for trouble. My father sometimes did that. I do that sometimes, but not my mother. So she was a real good person.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MR: And how long did you stay in Denver?

HY: Well, I was in Denver from September of '42, and I left I think in August of '45.

MR: Did you graduate from college in Denver?

HY: Yes and no. See, I got accepted to the Hahnemann Medical College in 1945, so I started, matriculated at Hahnemann in 1945, September. And after what, in those days, after one year in your graduate school, that year is applied to your college, so they retroactively apply one year of medical school to the college, so I got my college diploma in 1946 when I was attending medical school in 1945. So it was kind of funny, but that's the way they did it in those days, I just threw out my college diploma by the way. I said, "What am I going to do with this anymore?"

MR: Don't tell your children that you did that.

HY: Pardon?

MR: Don't tell your children that you did that.

HY: Oh, well, what would they do with it?

MR: At the end of the war, let's just kind of place where was everybody at the end of the war.

HY: At the end of the war, this is 1945. Okay. Let's start from the top. My father was still at the Santa Fe alien detention camp. He didn't get out until January of '46. My mother at the end of war was in Denver. And then Chop.. oh, he was, he and Miki and Joan and they had a new baby by then because in December of '45, well, this is '45, no '44, I'm sorry. December '44, they had a new child, Tom. He was born in Ontario, Oregon. So they were in a little tiny place called Fruit Land, Oregon. Min was in '45, Min was in Chicago. He went back to Chicago after he got out of camp. Roku was in Japan in the occupation army. Wait a minute, Michi? Michi was back in Denver, back in Denver. She was married by then too. Michi... then Roku was in the occupational army. Shu, Shu was in medical school, Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. I was in the School of Medicine in Hahnemann in Philadelphia, and Yuka was just graduated, let's see. I think she just graduated from South High School in Denver. That's, oh, my aunt and uncle, Uncle Dotso, was in Minidoka. They just got release from Minidoka.

MR: And what finally prompted your father's release?

HY: What finally, end of the war, six months later, five months later.

MR: Did he just get out because the war ended, or did they have to go through any --

HY: I think so. One thing they had, the Justice Department had a big expatriation, repatriation program, but my father always refused to sign that. He said, "No, I don't want to be expatriated or repatriated." So he always refused that, so they had to decide what to do with these thousands of Issei at the end of the war. Most of them, most of them were released unconditionally. Some I think, I heard, were released on parole, but most of them were on unconditional release. But you got to remember, war ended in August, and a lot of these men like my father was not released until five, six months later in January of '46. So he was unconditionally released.

MR: Did anyone return to Hood River?

HY: Oh yeah, approximately half of the people, oh, you mean my family?

MR: In your family, yes.

HY: Oh, the only one that returned in the family from my family was Chop and his family. By that time, he had three kids. So there's Chop and his wife Miki and then Joan and Tom and Phillip. They're the only ones of the Yasuis to ever return to the valley. They're still there. Well, Chop and Miki are dead of course, but the children are still there.

MR: Then where did, where did your parents go after that?

HY: Well, they stayed in Denver for a month or two wondering what to do. And then they moved to Portland, Oregon, and they stayed the rest of their lives in Portland from 19, sometime in 1946 until they died.

MR: So then now you're in Philadelphia?

HY: Oh, at that time?

MR: At the end of the war.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: They're in Portland; you're in Philadelphia?

HY: Right, right.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MR: And I understand you met your wife in Philadelphia?

HY: That's right.

MR: Can you talk about that?

HY: Well, sure. Let's see at that time, I was living with, well, I had a roommate. I think I had two roommates. One of them was Terry Hayashi who was at Temple University School of Medicine. The other one was Bob Katase. And in those days, they had what they call an International House, and Miki at that time was living in what they call a Japanese American hostel in Philadelphia. She was a coed at that Drexel Institute of Technology, and Terry had invited her to this young, nice looking girl to a dance. So they went to the dance, and after the dance was over, Terry had the good idea -- and this story I hear from my wife, you know -- he says, "Well, let's invite my roommate to have dinner with us," so Miki says, "Okay." And so Terry called up and said, "Hey, meet us for dinner at Fishers on Broadway," so I says, "Okay." So we go over there. So that's when I met Miki. We met at dinner and say, hey, nice looking guy. [Laughs] That's how it all started. So I took Miki away from Terry.

MR: And when were you married then?

HY: Oh, we were married June 17, 1950, about a year after I graduated from medical school.

MR: And where were you living then?

HY: You mean when we were married, first married? Oh, we moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, where I was working. Well, I got a job as a general resident, and Miki got a job at Vassar College, Vassar College in the library department. So we lived there one year. That was a very nice life then. We had nothing, but we had fun.

MR: What brought you, what brought you back?

HY: To Philadelphia? To where, to Portland or what?

MR: Oh, first, I need to ask something else. In college, what was it like during the war to be on the East Coast, and what was your treatment back there?

HY: Well, the East Coast, this is, actually, wait a minute, wait a minute. I wasn't back on the East Coast during the war. I was in Denver during the war. See, the war ended in August of '45. I went to Philadelphia, East Coast in September. So if we're talking about what was it like in the East Coast, then we have to talk about after the war. So which question is it?

MR: I see. Well, after the war because it's still, there still may have been some interesting times.

HY: Oh, okay. Well, after the war, it was interesting because in those days, I vividly remember TV was just coming in, just starting, and we used to, after our class and so on, we'd go to the bar, not to drink beer then but to watch the TV. Gee, that's real interesting, that's one thing. And then I scarcely remember, well, in fact, I don't even remember VJ Day because I don't know where I was at that time. VJ Day happened in August, I think, 9th or whatever, no, whatever it was, August something '45. And I don't know what happened, but there, Philadelphia was such a big change for me because this is a huge city, millions of people. Denver was hundreds of thousands, but Philadelphia, huge. And then not only that, they have things like a subway. Never ridden in the subway in my life. I go, oh, this is great going in the subway. They had things like automats which you put nickels in; it gives you food out of these little cubbyholes. It's called, what the heck, Horn & Hardardt Automats, and that was kind of fun and interesting. And all these people, and you know in Denver, they had a few blacks but not like in Philadelphia. There's a lot of black people here. And here us Asians, so you can kind of get lost in a big city like that. You can't in Hood River because we stuck out like sore thumbs. But in Philadelphia, it's pretty easy to do. And then not only that, the East Coast is so much more cosmopolitan than the little dinky town that I had come from, you know. I said, "Oh boy, big town, I kind of like this," you know. You can get lost, and you can do your own thing. But there was some lonesomeness associated with that because I never made real, real close friends with one or two exceptions. I have still a lifetime friend there from Saxon. We still correspond with them. He was a classmate. We were roommates too. But all in all, it was a tremendous experience. It broaden my horizons. It made me realize how big a world we live in. Because coming from a poor podunk town like Hood River, you don't get that feeling. You got to travel and see the big cities and the bright lights to understand hey, you're just a little frog in a little puddle when you're in Hood River. You're a little frog in a big puddle when you're in Philadelphia. But still it's different. It was great.

MR: During the war though, you were in Denver as a student?

HY: Yes.

MR: And what was your treatment like there?

HY: Treatment I think was, to me I thought hey, almost, I would say it was exemplary. I can't remember a single incident of discrimination or prejudice directed at me particularly. I don't think any of my friends did either. At the same time, we're very, very cautious. There were at that time maybe two hundred, in aggregate two hundred Nisei students. But this time, we're talking about middle of the '44, somewhere around there, maybe two hundred Nikkei students among two thousand undergrad students. And Denver also at that time was a Methodist school. I don't know whether that had anything to do with it or not, but it was very good and very helpful and very liberal, and we, I had no problems at all, and I don't think any of my other friends had any problems. I never heard them talk about any discrimination. But at the same time, Margaret, we kept very, very much to ourselves. We didn't really go out and mingle and try to say, "Hey, I'm just a good American as you." We didn't do those things. We would now, but we didn't then.

MR: What brought you back to Portland?

HY: I suppose it's because my father wanted us to come back. He wanted some family. Yuka was there. See, she was going to University of Oregon at that time, so she was the only child. But I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do after I finished my second year of residency. And then I decided well, I want to train to be a surgeon like my older brother Shu, so I applied to Emanuel Hospital in Portland for surgical residency. And I said, oh, well, my father, he was very happy about that. He didn't say so, but I know he was. He went down, talked to the administrator, and made all the arrangements and so on. So we came back to Portland and been here ever since, since 1951.

MR: What, what made you decide to choose medicine as a career? Who made you, who influenced


HY: Well, I think probably the overwhelming influence -- nobody said I should do this -- but I think the overwhelming influence is my older brother Shu because I've always had lifelong admiration for him. And, he was a very good student, good athlete, and all that. So I've always felt that hey, what he does is probably good for me too.

MR: And did you enjoy your career as a physician?

HY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It's a very interesting type of work. It has its ups and downs just like everything else. But oh yeah, it's very interesting, very rewarding.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MR: I'm curious about the JACL. When you came back to Portland, is that, when did you get active in that organization?

HY: I didn't get active in JACL because I was too busy trying to make a living. In the beginning, the struggle was kind of tough. But Miki joined I think in probably in the late '60s, and I don't know if she was an officer then or not. But I joined somewhere around 1970s after my practice had kind of leveled off, and I had a little bit more time to devote to civil affairs and activities, civil rights, that sort of thing, about 1970 for me. And then ever since then, we've been pretty intimately involved in JACL except since we retired here.

MR: I wonder about JACL's position, some of the controversy about complying with the internment orders and how you felt about that as you were joining the organization yourself?

HY: Well, when I joined, I picked up what JACL was saying, and they said, well, it was for the greatest good for the greatest number and so on. And then over the years after hearing the controversy, particularly about the draft, so-called draft resistance, that controversy and then about how the JACL were nothing but sycophants and so on, going along with those things. So I have tremendous ambivalence dichotomy, dichotomous feeling about that because I'm telling you that in 1941 and '44, '41, '2, '3, '4, '5, there was a huge, huge feeling of super patriotism. Unless you experience it, it's hard to imagine. It's not at all like today. It's not at all like the Vietnam War. It's like this was a hugely, hugely popular war, and anything the government said, anything the President said, anything all the big shots said, you took it as gospel truth until JACL toed that line. But not only did the JACL toe the line, but let me tell an anecdote which is true. There were ninety Hood River Issei residents signed a loyalty oath to the federal government, United States government. This is Hood River, and these people of Hood River, the Issei, most of them, well, the women couldn't speak English, but they signed this protestation of loyalty to the United States. And these are people who were not allowed to become citizens of the United States because of the President, and yet they signed an affirmation that they will be loyal to, they will not break, they will obey the law to the United States. So if the Issei are going to do that, who had been crapped upon and reviled can do that, why wouldn't the Nisei do that? And they did. And so the people now who say, well, you should have had more bravery and got up and resisted and fought it, that's very easy for them to say today, but it was not like that in those days. And for people who say, well, they wouldn't do that today. I say, "How do you know?" Until you face that thing, you don't know. What you're doing is blowing a lot of smoke. You don't know that. But there are a lot of people who say that, "I would do this, that and the other thing," they don't know. So I say JACL did the best they could under the circumstances. And sure, they made mistakes and so on, but I don't know if anybody else could have done better.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MR: When did thoughts about redress start to surface?

HY: Oh, for me... gee. I guess it must have been about 1980, I think. It was, was the Salt Lake City convention, I think it was the Salt Lake City convention. I think it was 1980, and that's when I believe it was Edison Uno who got up and says, hey, we ought to pursue this. Well, at the same time -- oh, it was not only Edison Uno but Min Masuda who was the Seattle chapter and Henry Miyatake from Seattle. But also at the Salt Lake City meeting -- I'm not positive it was 1980 but somewhere around there -- the then Senator Sam Hayakawa was there, and he was adamantly against the idea of redress. He says, "It makes my skin crawl to think that we would ask for redress." Well, this damn guy was never incarcerated in the first place, and besides. he was a Canadian citizen originally in the second place, and he was a big blowhard in the third place, so nobody had much sympathy for him. So people like Min Masuda and Henry Miyatake, they walked out right while he was speaking. That's when I became aware, oh, there's something going on here, and that's when I became interested, whatever that Salt Lake City convention was, because I realized hey, there were real strong feelings here, even amongst our own people, real strong.

MR: Were there any special activities that you personally took part in, in the redress movement?

HY: Well, yeah. They had what they call a fundraiser for the legislative education committee, and it was broken down in the district, and I was one of the members of that. Then they had the redress committee for the Portland Chapter JACL, and I was co-chair with Peggy Nagae on that originally. And then we had meetings, this is later on, but they had meetings with the main speaker like Min, and Min... not Min, Hohri, William Hohri, speaking on redress, and so we had a lot of speakers. And then the Pacific Northwest Chapter, Pacific Northwest District Council JACL had a lot of meetings on that. So from 1980 on, there were things going on all the time, the national conventions. They were always bringing up, they'd have workshops on that, so I was involved in all of those. And then the culmination of this was in 1988 when, that was the Seattle convention that year, and that's the year that it came up that Reagan was going to sign the redress bill. So a bunch of us put our money down, and we flew to Washington, D.C. and actually witnessed that, and I was one of them. That was really a highlight for me.

MR: Can you talk about that experience?

HY: Oh, yeah. This is, during the convention, they made a special announcement that President Reagan will sign the Civil Rights Bill of 1988. Those who want to go, go. And you know this is just like that off the floor, so, and this is Seattle. They had room I think for nationwide something like two hundred people, so I talked to Miki and says, "Gee, can I go? I want to go." So she says, "Sure, go." So I pull out my credit card and get signed up, and Tru didn't want to, this is Min's wife, the widow actually. She didn't want to go. I says, "Hey, Tru, you got to go, you're Min's surrogate." She says, "I've been his surrogate all my life. I don't want to go." "Well, maybe so, but I think this is a real good time for you to go, Tru. Hey, Min worked all his life for something like this." So she says, "Oh, okay, I'll go. Will you go with me?" I said, "Sure I'll go with you," so we went. So it was hotter than heck there too. This is Washington, D.C. in August, and it was hot. But there were, then we met Norman Mineta who was a representative at that time and had lunch with him and so on. And then we all filed in this big, it was very impressive to me. The thing that impressed me the most is, I don't know if you've seen the picture, but Reagan is on a side of a, behind a horseshoe shaped desk, and he's signing it, and then all the Japanese senators and the president of JACL are behind him lined up watching him sign. But that moment, I thought, God, Min should have been here, and that to me was very poignant. He wasn't there.

MR: And he worked very hard for this too?

HY: Uh-huh.

MR: I do have a question about the redress. Apparently there were two, two directions that could be taken, to go through a committee and take testimony or to go kind of on a fast track, am I correct in that?

HY: You're correct, except the, let me clarify that. One was a legislative approach which is the one where you take testimony and so on. The other one was the, not the legislate, the legal, suit, a lawsuit, and those were the two basic types. The lawsuit one was actually chaired by a man named William Hohri who's still alive, and it was called the National Council for Japanese American Redress. And what they want to do is sue the United States government on a class-action basis for something like for twenty billion dollars, and they had I don't know twenty-two courses of action. Well, that failed. The legislative approach which went, was a commission approach did succeed, but after intense work, and I have to say it was JACL that was the sparkplug. Without two groups, this would never have happened; one was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the other one was National JACL. Without that, Nikkei redress would never have been won in my opinion.

MR: Which of these two choices did you favor?

HY: Oh, hey, I was a JACL boy, still am.

MR: How did the community feel about redress in general, do you think? Did it make a difference to them?

HY: You mean during, before --

MR: After. When it was achieved, what, how were people speaking about it?

HY: Well, I think most of the people that I'm familiar with were happy that they got it. But you know, people are so different, Margaret. I think of people who say, "I'm not going to work on this," this is before. "I'm not going to work. I got no chance. Why beat a dead horse? You got no chance of getting this. I'm not going to help you. But if they give it to me, sure I'll take it." And so it runs the whole gamut of feelings and emotions. But generally, after it was won, I've had people say, "I wouldn't give $1,000 for this redress campaign any more than I want to pay $1,000 to watch Jesus Christ walk across the Columbia River." I've heard that too. Holy cow. But after winning redress, everybody took the money. I'm sure that people may have donated. I heard some people donated the $20,000 to Loma Linda or whatever college or whatever they wanted to do, but I think that there were very, very, few. This one was driven, I'm convinced, by a minority group. And the other thing that you will hear and I dispute this is that it was the Sansei that drove this, and I say not so. It was not the Sansei. It was the Nisei that drove this. Without the Nisei JACL, it would never have happened. Without the Nisei Regimental Combat Team, it would never have happened, and I still stand on that one.

MR: Is it Bill Hosokawa who termed the Nisei the "quiet Americans"?

HY: He's the man.

MR: After redress, did the redress and the signing of this bill change that attitude in the Nisei if it ever was?

HY: Well, no. I think that Hosokawa's obligation is correct as far as the Nisei goes. Now when he says the "quiet American," he's specifically addressing the Nisei generation. He's not talking about... now the, in my view, the Nisei are still generally quiet. Most of us are not very outspoken. Most of us would rather take a small profile. We'd rather have problems come to us. We'd rather have people make proposals to us that we can look at and examine and comment on. We do not say, well, we ought to do this, that, and the other thing. We're not like that. Now the Sansei may be a different generation, different point of view. They are probably more proactive than the Nisei ever were. Nisei are not proactive as a general rule. So we are still the "quiet American." The Sansei are not that much like that, but they are compared to most other Americans. The Sansei too are not as proactive as a lot of other people.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MR: Now all the while this is all going on, you're married and having children. How many children do you have?

HY: Three.

MR: And they are?

HY: Oh, okay. The oldest one is Barbara, and she lives in Marysville, Washington. And the next one is Meredith. She lives on Vashon Island. And the youngest one -- who's forty-six by the way -- lives in Portland, and they all have kids.

MR: How many grandchildren?

HY: Seven.

MR: I won't ask you to name them.

HY: Okay.

MR: How did you find time to be involved in the JACL and keep this job being a doctor and the family, how did you balance all that?

HY: Well, I don't think I balanced it too well according to some people. [Laughs] But it did work out though because, we give and take in our family. So generally speaking, after a little bit of discussion, we tried to figure out our priorities, and both Miki and I were interested in JACL, and we're both still interested in civil rights, and we're interested in our ethnic culture, very much interested in that. We're very much interested in our history. So fortunately for us, we're not all that far apart on the most important thing. We are on things like whether fruits are good for you or vegetables are good for you or who wants to eat broccoli. We're way apart on that, but that's peanuts.

MR: And you've retired now?

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: When did you retire?

HY: Oh, I retired in 1987, so going on seventeen years, eighteen years.

MR: So in this retirement career of yours, what are you, how are you spending your time?

HY: Well right now, we're moving, Margaret, and it's a terrible, terrible job because we still have so much junk in our house. You know, we lived there forty-seven years, and you accumulate your kid's treasures and broken bottles and even rocks and shells that we picked up on the beach forty years ago and things like that. So we don't even have our house up for sale, but we will hopefully. But what we're doing after we get settled down is Miki and I, I have plans. I'd like to do some writing about, not any big story, about my family and the Nikkei experience, not for publication but for my own children and for my own family. It's not for the greater population. And then I'd like to work on all the thousands of photographs we have because most of them aren't even captioned, so it's important to have why and where and when and who. So I want to do that, and I figured, hey, that's going to take a lot of my time. But at this place, it's, somebody said, living here is like living on a cruise ship. There's all kinds of things you can do. They have a swimming pool, health gym, ice cream parlor, gamble -- well, no gambling. But there's church and places they eat and all that sort, there are all kinds of things you can do, and they have excursions. So, hey, I think we're going to have a great time here.

MR: Looking back on all that you've experienced, what lessons have you learned about America?

HY: Well, I think the foremost lesson is don't give up. Well, when things look bad and everything turns against you, just don't give in. Hang in there, keep fighting. Japanese have a word for it, ganbatte, and I think that's a very, very good thing for almost everybody to remember, just to try to achieve. Stay in there, stay the course.

MR: I still keep thinking of your father's spacious dreams. I love that. What do you think he would think now if he saw his children?

HY: Pardon?

MR: What do you think he would think now with all of his children and what they have accomplished?

HY: What he would think and what he would say are two different things. But what I think he would think is, "By golly, I think all my lectures and all my sermons did some good because my kids turned out pretty good, you know. They got a good life, they got good family, they got good spouses, and they made a difference in the world," and that's all he wanted. He said, "Make a difference, a positive difference in the world. As long as you're here, you're here for a purpose, so your purpose is to do some good," and I think that he would have felt that. I don't think he'd have ever said it, but I'm almost positive that's what he would have thought.

MR: We're coming kind of close to the end of our interview. Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you would like to talk about?

HY: No. No, I don't think so, Margaret. I think we've covered it all. I think it's about time for lunch break.

MR: One more question. Is there anything that we did talk about that you'd like to go back and say more about?

HY: Well, eventually, I would like to talk about the discrimination and prejudice in the Hood River Valley although it's dragging up old bones and old stories and so on. But you know, that thing really irks me to this day, and I suppose people should let bygones be bygones. That bothers me still to this day, and here I'm towards the end of my life. That's a bad attitude, but maybe we can do it --

MR: In part two.

HY: Yeah, yeah. Okay, good.

MR: Well, thank you very much for your time and your patience.

HY: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I enjoyed that.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MR: Can you tell me about the Japanese enjoyment of mushrooming?

HY: Oh, Japanese enjoyment of mushrooming. Well, in Hood River, that's a real, real old tradition, and I don't remember when I first went, but I was a child. And I remember the first time we went, I went with my mother and older brother Shu and my aunt, and I think it was some farmer, some orchardist from Dee, and he took us for what seemed like miles up the hill. We had sticks, and I think we carried a bento and so on, and this is for oh, I would guess I was probably ten or twelve or so, and it seemed like we walked forever up the hills. And you know, that day we didn't find a single mushroom. I said, "Well gosh, this is no fun." But then later on as the years went by, two, three years later, then the farmers and the orchardists and the Issei would bring in mushroom because what they do because times were bad is they'd sell the mushrooms on, I think on consignment in my uncle's store which was a combination general store, grocery store and so on. So they'd sell the mushroom because not all the Japanese in the valley knew where to find the mushrooms, and mushroom which the Japanese call matsutake, I mean a literal translation for that would be "pine mushroom," was very, very important at festive occasions particular during the New Year, and that's when the mushrooms came out is in the winter, beginning from the fall. So beginning from that time, oh, I would say in the 1930s and so on, nobody seems to know who found the first mushroom in Hood River. This is the Armillaria ponderosa. But imagine the joy of this man who, the first Issei who goes out hunting for deer one day, and instead of getting a deer, he sees something and says, "Hey, that looks familiar." So he picks it up and looks at it and smells it, says matsutake, probably mushroom. And this is something he thought he lost forever when he went to Japan because he picked them in Japan as a child. He comes to this foreign land up in these big timbered mountains and the rushing slopes, and he finds this matsutake, treasure. And from that time on in Hood River Valley, they had quite a bonanza going to Red Hill, to Mount Adams, and Mount Defiance and Frog Lake. And from that day on, I've been bitten with the mushroom bug, and I've passed that on to my wife, Miki, after we came here in 1951, and our kids. They're not too many third generation Sansei know about matsutake anymore because in the first place, it's very much harder to find than the old days. The old days, you'd go almost anywhere when the weather was good and the terrain was right. Those are very important factors. But now because there's so many restrictions, private lands, and we can't go on Indian reservations anymore like we used to freely, so it's much harder to find. But still, for true dyed-in-the-wool mushroom hunters like Miki and me, we go every year. You know, we're kind of infirm and feeble and old, and it's hard for us to get around, but we still like to do that. Now we have some other friends who can't do it anymore, and that's one of their heartfelt desires. Even to this day, they're in their eighties, you know. They can't do it anymore, so Miki and I are going to take some mushrooms to them, so they can relive it in their own minds how they used to do it ten and twenty and thirty years ago. So we'll take them some. But it's a grand tradition. It's not so much the food is so good, but it's tied in with so many old and cultural things that are highly, highly relevant to the Issei and the Nisei and to our children, the Sansei. They know what it's all about, so they enjoy it too.

MR: Is there a special way you prepare those mushrooms?

HY: Well, of course we prepare it, not me, but the womenfolk, the Nisei womenfolk prepare that in the traditional Japanese fashion. One of the most typical traditions is sukiyaki, and everybody knows what sukiyaki is. They slice up the mushroom and put it in sukiyaki. But one of the classical uses of matsutake is putting it in soup. And so they'll freeze the matsutake or preserve it in some way like canning and bring it out at either Thanksgiving or Christmas or particularly at New Year's oshogatsu, and they'll put it in a soup called ozoni. That's a traditional rice cake, rice dumpling soup, and they put matsutake in that too, and that's a very important way of eating it. But there are many ways of eating matsutake. But as far as I know besides steak and mushroom, American style steak and mushroom, it's the only way I know how to eat it the Anglo way. But otherwise, it's all Japanese. We cook it with pork and beans. We cook it with, sometimes just bake it and kind of preserve it in vinegar and sugar, and sometimes they even boil it down called tsukudani, so, but these are all traditional Japanese ways. Another favorite, my favorite way is in a soup that's called obunsho. And an obunsho is a soup that's made out of pork stock, and it has a, you know what nappa is? Nappa is Chinese cabbage and pork, sliced pork and blocks of tofu and lots of slice mushroom, and you make a big bowl of that and steaming piping hot bowl of obunsho and a big bowl of rice, grand meal, wonderful one dish meal, great stuff.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MR: So now let's go to Hood River and maybe you can talk about the anti-Japanese sentiment that began in Hood River so long ago and continued until after the war.

HY: Well, it did begin in Hood River a long time, but of course, the genesis of the anti, actually Oriental feeling probably began in California at around nineteen... well, before that is during the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s. But that spilled over because the Chinese Exclusion Act did become effective in 1880 and renewed in 1892, and so no more Chinese were allowed to come to the United States. So that's when the heyday of the Japanese immigration to the United States occurred, and it was that period of time when anti-discrimination rose as early as 1903 in California, and then it spilled over to Oregon and Washington. Washington had a larger number of Japanese than Oregon did. So about 1903, they had an Asian Exclusion League which was started in California, and they had a chapter in Portland, not Portland, in Hood River, for a very short time, and then it became defunct because there just wasn't that much interested. That time, 1903, the Japanese were just beginning to come in to Hood River Valley. Before that, there were none. But anyway, in 1919, they did have a formal Oriental Exclusion League, and there were several of the bigwig officers that were bigwigs in the Hood River Caucasian community, but that wasn't the worst about it. The worst part about it was the American Legion, Hood River American Legion Post Number 22 which was formed around 1919 after World War One, and they had an instrumental man. His name was George C. Wilbur, and he was a lawyer. He was also a senator, an Oregon senator in the Oregon State Legislature, and he and his cohorts in the American Legion, the Hood River American Legion Post Number 22, I believe, first proposed the Oriental, the Asian Exclusion Act, the anti-alien land law, excuse me, the anti-alien land law which was directed at preventing Japanese Issei who were not eligible for citizenship from owning real property.

Now, let's go back a little bit. Before 1923 when that law was passed, it was possible for Issei who were not citizens who could not become citizens to own land in their own name, and many of them did including my father, and the way they did it many times, they bought the land outright with so much down and then make their mortgage payments. But others that went to Hood River, they hired out to clear the stump land that were logged over tree land from the forestry, and they removed the stump which was a very laborious, tedious job in those days, and most people didn't want to do that, but the young Issei laborer would do it. And so several of them owned their land outright before the Exclusion Act of 1923, okay, not the Exclusion Act again, I take it back. It's the Oriental, the anti-Asian land law is what it was. So that's the way they owned land. But in 1919, George Wilbur, American Legion Post Number 22, was instrumental in introducing a resolution to the National American Legion in Chicago, 1919s, stipulating that no person ineligible for citizenship should be eligible to own land in Oregon. They want to make that a national platform, and I think they did, and that was passed at the American Legion. And it was from that time on, the impetus was, became very great. And it was, the first measure was introduced in 1917 by this attorney George Wilbur who was a bigwig in the American Legion. And then by nineteen... whenever it was, '20s, Barge Leonard, who was also an American Legionary introduced it again in the Oregon State senate, and it did pass. And from 1923, then it, the law was passed. From then on, Asians, Orientals particularly, not particularly, people who were ineligible for citizenship could not own land in their own name. But there were ways to get around that, of course, and they did, and we can discuss that later on. But from 1923, the, you would think that the American Legion had gotten what they wanted. They prevented the "Japs" from owning the land in the Hood River Valley of golden hill who wants to own these golden roads and all that stuff. Well, they didn't. The drum beat didn't, it did let up a little bit, but it was still not enough. They wanted the "Japs" to not have the women work on the farm, hoeing the strawberry and carrying while they got the babies strapped on their back and so on. And so the agitation continued, but it was not nearly as bad, and there were, it was up and down. There were good points and bad points. For example, in 1923, there was a great earthquake in Japan. It's called the Kanto earthquake, and hundreds of thousands of people died in the greater Tokyo area. And so the American people being generous as they were, they sent money to help, succor the people in Tokyo. Well, so when that happened, then of course, that's the same year the anti-Asian land law passed in Oregon too and what the hell. How do you figure these things. American people on one hand are helping the Japanese people in Japan, but they're spitting on them in our own country when they're trying to do good. So these things are very, very hard to figure out. How come these things happen? I don't know.

But to carry on the story about the prejudice against the Japanese in Hood River, to me the unforgiving, yeah, I'll have to say that. The unforgivable thing is that the Hood River American Legion in the form of one particular person named Kent Shoemaker -- now, I don't know whether Kent Shoemaker did this as an official member of the American Legion or not, but he took out paid advertisements that said in effect these, we, the undersigned, and this is a petition, the undersigned do not want the Japs coming back to Hood River after the war, coming back period. And every week for I don't know, four weeks, five weeks, he'd solicit, he or they or whoever, the American Legion, would solicit people to sign their names on this petition saying, no, we don't want the Japs come back to Hood River. At that time, Hood River had a population, county population of maybe ten, eleven thousand. In total, 1500 people signed that petition, and some of those people who signed that petition were my classmates, my school classmates, some were my teachers, and many, many were people that my friends, that were friends of my father and my family, the people we've known for twenty and thirty and forty years, and people did that. Can you imagine fifteen percent of the population says that? Can you imagine what kind of effect that would have on the people who are hoping to come back? This is the only home they knew. That's devastating type stuff, but it happened, and so that's why I find it very, very hard. I don't forget. Maybe others do, I don't. To me, I'll live with that for the rest of my life. And if the others want to say, well, forgive and forget, that's fine. I mean, I'm not going to do it, but they can.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MR: Could you talk about the American Legion and their activities removing the names from the honor board after the war?

HY: Oh, that was a little bit before the war, end of, actually, that was an American Legion Post actually, Hood River American Legion Post. It's American Legion Post Number 22 is what it is. And at that time, the commander was Jess Eddington whose daughter was a classmate of my next older brother, Shu. But Bonnie Eddington had nothing to do with it. Jess Eddington had a lot to do with it because he was the commander. But in 1944, November, the American Legion for whatever reason decided in their great wisdom that all Nisei, all Nisei with dual citizen by virtue of their birth in the United States, but at the same time, their parents were supposed to have registered them with the Japanese government as being also citizens of Japan. This was not true, but they said it was true. And they had some documentation that it was true earlier, but it wasn't true at the time they said it. And they said because of that thing, the sixteen men who were in the Armed Forces of the United States, they cannot be trusted. And until competent authority can a judge their loyalty, their names had to be stricken from this memorial board. It was kind of an honor roll board which was an American Legion, American Legion Post Number 22 project. It was their board, and it was mounted on the post office wall on the east side of the concrete post office, not concrete, stone wall. And they did remove those names. They removed all sixteen names of the Issei -- not Issei, Nisei soldiers, and one of them, well, Tim talked about several of them today, but there were sixteen, and I knew them all one way or another. Well, that really raised a firestorm of protest not only from legionnaires but also from the American Legion itself which is kind of interesting because, this is 1941-- not '41, it's '44, excuse me, 1944. Ed Scheiberling who was the commander of the National American Legion got together with his board and said, "Hey, we can't do things like that. My god, these guys, these Japanese, they may be Japanese but they're American citizens. They're fighting for the United States. We can't do a thing like that nor can we allow a thing like that." So they got, Scheiberling and his crew got back at the American Legion Post Number 22, said, "You guys will take, put those names back on the board or we'll pull your charter." So that put the Hood River American Legion Number 22 in a tough bind. They said, "Hey, what are we going to do, fellows? We either, we either fish or we cut bait. What do we want to do?" So they decided they better fish. So they said, "Okay. We'll put the names back on the board." But the interesting thing is this story says that the sixteen names removed, but only fifteen was returned, and the sixteenth one, nobody including the Nisei in Hood River seemed to know who it is. Although, one of the stories is, well, they think that maybe he was an itinerant Kibei -- Kibei is a Nisei, but he's a different category -- that was dishonorably discharged, so they can't put his name back on. So the story is to this day as far as I know, maybe Linda Tamura can explain that, there were sixteen names removed and fifteen were returned. And of those, there's several of these people who are still living here in our valley, and some of them, one of them is living right here in this community. And several of them won the Silver Star. The Silver Star is the third highest military honor available. You don't, they don't just give it to you. You earn these things. And yet, the American Legion had the brass to say these guys are not good American soldiers. So because they got dual citizenship, this American Legion was so screwy, and George Wilbur was so dumb, that this guy, a lawyer, says that these guys are dual citizens so that their loyalty is suspect in the first place. Japan is five thousand miles away. How in the hell are they going to enforce Japanese law on United States soil is beyond me, or how a smart guy like Wilbur could even imagine that can happen is far beyond me too.

MR: Did, how long did it take them after the war to come around and not only just put the names back but be accepting of the Japanese community?

HY: I think there are some that's still not accepting, the few that are still living. I don't know who they may be, but they'd have to be awful old, around ninety or so, I suppose. But I know some of them never, never changed. These guys are just bad. But to me, that's been such a distasteful bad scene. I have no fond memories of that era at all.

MR: It sounds like the American Legion was definitely in the forefront of anti-Japanese behavior. But what about the merchants and the general population of the town at that time?

HY: Well, the, as I say, they had the Anti-Exclusion League which was formed in 1919, and they did have a group, small cabaret that was always agitating for improvement of the home. And like I say, they didn't want Japanese women to working on the farm, carrying babies on their back, and hoeing strawberries and packing fruit and things like that. There was always a small cadre, but they were not vociferous or up front or outstanding like the American Legion Post was. During the war -- this is during the war which changes things quite a bit. For example, the police chief, he was very patronizing, and he has a notice printed in the paper saying, "The Japanese should not congregate, and if you meet each other on the street, don't bow, don't talk in your own language. You don't even have to go to church because it doesn't look good." This is the chief of police, Hood River chief of police. He's telling my people and me don't bow or don't talk Japanese. What right did he have to do that? But that is the temper of time, and you have to understand the temper of time. You have to understand the prejudice. You have to understand the patriotism, the loyalty. It was just unbelievable in today, in context of today's time. But if you can put your mind in that time frame, if you see some of the prejudice, if you read some of the stories and you realize hey, this was a different world and totally different, so it was very, very tough. They made us try, they tried to make us feel like dirt. And you know what? They were successful, they did.

MR: You said your brother Chop, you said, went back to Hood River after the war and farmed. Can you talk about the challenges he faced and some of the emotions he may have shared with you?

HY: Oh, well, yeah. One of the things that's difficult talking about this is Chop wanted, he wanted to get along with everybody, and so he wouldn't sometimes say things up front, up front that he probably should have. But anyway, when he went back to Hood River, he wanted to get along with everybody because this is where, what he knew, where he grew up. So he wanted to trade, he'd go in there and E.A. Franz company and want to buy a hoe or something. They wouldn't sell it to him, says, "We don't have any," and you see it on the wall, but, "Don't have any." So he'd go twenty-five miles to the Dalles, and all the Japanese in those areas -- this is 1945 I'm talking about, '45 and '46, drive twenty-five miles to the Dalles to get whatever they want including groceries. Now that wasn't universal because... let me back up. There were a few people like RJ, Robert J. McIsaac in Parkdale who ran a grocery store in Parkdale, and he trusted some of the Japanese people. And he said, "You can't treat these people like that. They've been here twenty and thirty years, and their kids are citizens. They went to school with my boy. You can't do that." So RJ McIsaac, bless his heart, bought groceries for the people. But those were tough times.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MR: Let's go to after, after the war and after some of your schooling, you joined the navy?

HY: Oh, well, I didn't actually join the navy. I was coerced into the navy. [Laughs] It happened this way. When I was in medical school -- well, before that. I was 4-F through two times, three times; one time in Denver, I was eighteen by then, and when I went to medical school, I had two physical examinations. Each time, I have a heart murmur, still have it. And in those days, 1945, '46, they, the doctors figured that hey, a heart murmur is tantamount to a death sentence. That means this guy is not going to live very long. He's not good cannon fodder, so we won't take him. Well, okay, then I can go on and get my education. I did. I finished medical school, and then I went on got my internship and went on to my residency. I had another physical. He said, "Well, you're a doctor now, huh?" Yeah. I'm a doctor, licensed doctor, yeah. "Well, okay. You don't have to carry a rifle. So what we'll do, if you don't join a service of your choice, we'll put you in the army. In the army. You have to carry a rifle, and you have to troop and stomp and pitch tents and things like that. I don't want to do that. I think I rather be aboard a boat, and have food served to me and sleep in nice bunks and so on. So I said, "I want to go in the navy," and so the navy took me. But that's why I say I didn't exactly volunteer. I had a choice between the army and the navy or the air force because by that time, maybe you don't know it, but not until 1950 would the navy or the marine corps or the air force take Japanese Americans, so I was one of the early ones. I went in in 1954, but I wasn't the earliest, but it was different and up until '50. So I went in 1954. I just finished the tail end of my residency, surgical residency, and I was sent to... well, first I took my so-called indoctrination, military indoctrination, at Bremerton Naval Hospital which is in Bremerton, Washington, then I was shipped over to Iwakuni in Japan, and Iwakuni is about twenty, twenty miles south of Hiroshima. And when I went there in 1954 and I did visit it, most of that place was flattened. It was desolate. There were still some standing buildings and some were going up, so it wasn't like immediately after the atomic bombing. But there was still a lot of flat places there when we were there. Even when Miki was there, there were a lot of flat places. So I was there from December of 1954 'til October of 1956, nearly two years. And during that time, Miki and our oldest two children, Barbara and Meredith, were able to join me, and we really had a good experience. I was kind of dumb there. You know, I'm kind of a dumb guy sometimes. But one of the, another one of the dumb things that I did was I had a chance to live off base. See, I could have stayed on the base with military housing and paid maids and all that, but I could have equally stayed off the base with the Japanese population, and that's what I should have done. But I didn't do that because I said, "Hey, that's kind of inconvenient." I have to take a car and drive, go across the bridge, go through the gate, and have to salute the sentry every time and all that sort of stuff, and I don't want to do that. But I should have because I'd have learned so much more of the custom and tradition and the culture and the language and food. Everything would have been much better if I'd done that. But like I said, I was dumb, so I didn't do it.

MR: How old were your children when you were there?

HY: Oh, Barbara was just going on... no, I guess she was three, three, and Meredith was just a little past one, and both of them got measles on the way over. And neither one of my dear little children recognized Dad. They wouldn't come to me, that was so sad. But it had just been a few months, they wouldn't come to Dad, but it didn't take long. They got to know Daddy again.

MR: When you were in Japan, did you visit your family home area?

HY: Oh, yeah. Sure. We had a car. There were so many advantages of being in the American U.S. Navy when I was in there because we were able to bring our car, our household goods, the children, like my family can join me there, and that's what all happened. We'd get a car. I sold it for a profit before I left. But because we had a car, we drove to Tokyo once, no, Kyoto, Kyoto. Kyoto is, boy, it was really an experience driving those narrow, narrow roads driving to Kyoto. And of course, we couldn't read the Japanese signs. [Laughs] We can speak it, but we couldn't read the signs. We drove to Kyoto. And then amongst the other places we visited was my first cousin Yasuo Yasui and his family. We have some photographs there. It was great. It was real nice. Being in Japan was one of the highlights of my life. It was only for two years or so, but I still have fond memories. We have lots of pictures of that too.

MR: Since you were so close to Hiroshima and you're a doctor, did you have any interaction with survivors of the bomb?

HY: No. I didn't personally. I've known some after the war. But I'll tell you what, my brother-in-law is Toshio Fujikura, and he is a native Japanese born in Japan, and he's also a medical doctor. He's a pathologist. But he came to the United States after the war, and he graduated from Keio University School of Medicine. But he came to America, United States, and he took out a, took an ob-gyn residency at Johns Hopkins University in back east. And after he finished that, he took a residency in pathology, and he became a certified pathologist. Meanwhile, he married my sister, long story, but my sister went back to Japan on a Fulbright in 1955. She married this guy. My father didn't know about Fujikura. But anyway, long story. After, they came, Toshio came to the United States, and he became a naturalized American citizen which he still is. He has no Japanese citizenship. And the interesting thing is he owns a lot of land property, but he's an American citizen. He was born in Japan. His first language is Japanese. He's most comfortable in Japanese, but by virtue of being a doctor and a pathologist, he worked for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission for two, three years, first in Hiroshima. He was stationed right in Hiroshima and then later on in Nagasaki, the two places which were bombed, so he knows a lot about that stuff. He had some good experiences, good stories to tell; although, he's a reticent type of guy. So I don't know them, but he knows lots and lots of them or he knew lots and lots of them. But here in this country, Miki and I know two or three or four. In Portland, we know one, so we know a few, but not in Japan. I never knew any of them, but Toshio Fujikura does.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MR: Earlier, you told, you were talking about your brother Min and his efforts to prove the curfew unconstitutional during the war. Can you tell the story of how he got arrested and some of his motives and hopes for his quest?

HY: Yeah. Well, Min tells the story, and I've heard it many times. Actually, I've seen it written too. But Min says that when he read General DeWitt's proclamation promulgating the curfew laws, on the face of it, that's unconstitutional. You can't make an order that's applicable to aliens and also make it to only one select group of minority group like the Japanese Americans which had to obey the curfew, but Italian, German American, Italian Americans did not. He says you can't do that. So he wanted to find the ideal candidate, the World War I veteran, a father, and so on. So he'd go up to these people and say, "Hey, will you be willing to volunteer as a test case, a guinea pig for this?" Hell, no. I'm not going to do that because, afraid to go through trial and maybe found guilty and be put in jail. He says, "All right. Doggone it. I'll do it myself then." So he said, he instructed his secretary to notify the police. They call up the cops and tell them, "There's a Jap going to be walking on the street tonight, and you know, he's not supposed to be on it because it's past 8 o'clock at night and the curfew begins at 8 o'clock, so you want to be, watch out for him." So Min goes out, and he says that he took his citizen, his birth certificate with him, and he took a copy of the proclamation number three, I think it was, which is DeWitt's curfew order, in his pocket, walked up and down Burnside, and he says nobody stopped him. So he said he got tired of walking after walking an hour or two. So he comes to a patrol man, says, "Say officer, I want you to arrest me." He says, "Run along, Sonny. You're going to get into trouble." He says, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. This is my birth certificate. Here's General DeWitt's order, curfew order number three. It says no Japanese will be out after seven-thirty, 8 o'clock at night. You got to take me in." He says, "All right, Sonny. I'll take you in. I'll take you into the station house." This is Saturday night. So Min goes in, and he tells the desk sergeant, "I want you to book me because I violated the curfew law. And the sergeant says, "Well, sure, Son. I'll book you in." So he threw him in the drunk tank. Well Min forgot nothing happens on Saturdays and Sundays, so he had to wait until Monday until his attorney, Earl Bernard, came with the bail to bail him out. So he spent two nights in the drunk tank waiting to get out until he could tell his attorney, "Hey, come get me." That's the story. That's what you'll see published too. That's a pretty neat story.

MR: It took him a long time to get through this whole process.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: Years.

HY: Years, decades.

MR: Decades. At the, at the end of his life, what did he think about what he'd done?

HY: Well, Min was a very interesting character too. He says, "You know, I really didn't have much doubts that it was going to come out the way it did because I knew I was right." That's the way he was. "I knew I was right," but it took him over forty years to get that. So in the end, he says, "Well, it was worth it." He said, he felt that he would have really like to have his case go to what they call an evidentiary trial; in other words, a new trial, rehearing, new prosecution, new defense, and so on. It didn't get that far because he died before it could go that far. But he was happy knowing that Gordon Hirabayashi did, Gordon Hirabayashi was another one of the test challengers of the evacuation and the curfew in his case. Korematsu was another. But in Gordon Hirabayashi's case before Judge Donald Voorhees in Seattle, Korema-, I mean, Hirabayashi did have an evidentiary hearing, and he was exonerated. That's what Min wanted. He wanted, he wanted the judge or the jury to say, "You were never guilty in the first place." That's what he wanted to hear. But what happened in Min's case is that the judge vacated his sentence at the request and recommendation of the federal government. In other words, it's as if he was never sentenced. So they got a little asterisk or footnote down there saying "but vacated in 1984." So forty-two years later, it's vacated as if he was never sentenced, but that's all. But in Hirabayashi's case, there is a case lesson, case, this went to trial again, and there was an evidentiary hearing, so that's what Min wanted. He wanted to be vindicated, and he wasn't vindicated the way he wanted. But that was his only dissatisfaction as far as I know. But, "I knew I was right." [Laughs]

MR: So what was your brother's view of success?

HY: Of what?

MR: Success, a successful life?

HY: Min?

MR: Uh-huh.

HY: Well, I think my, Min was very much like my father in, we had so many dumb idealists in our family that one of them was, like I said, my father says, "Well you're here in this earth to do good and that should be the major focus in life." And then, that sounds awful Pollyannaish, but you know, I think they really believed it, and I think they really worked towards that. I'm sure they did.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MR: Some time ago, one of your nieces made a documentary about your family. Could you say something about that?

HY: Yes. You're talking about Lise Yasui who's my niece, my, Shu's oldest daughter, and she made a documentary, oh, man, that must be twenty-five years ago, I guess. And the whole thrust of it is that because it caused her father, my brother Shu, so much pain, he couldn't talk about some of the things that happened in his lifetime, his experience with prejudice and discrimination. And the most key thing that he kept from her and from his own wife for many, many years was the fact that my father committed suicide, and my father committed suicide partially as a result of his prolonged incarceration in the justice department, not entirely, but partly because of that, and my father, my brother Shu could never bring himself to tell his daughter that. He didn't tell his own wife that for many, many, many years. And that was the thrust of Lise's story, how painful these things can be. So it was, it was a project that took, it was a thirty-minute documentary tape. And then some Boston TV station wanted to expand it to an hour long, so that's what she did. And the story isn't how it was so painful to my father. He didn't tell her about my, my father, his father, being in an internment camp for over five years and how it affected his physical well-being, his emotional well-being, and his mental well-being, particularly his mental well-being because it was so painful to him to try to reveal these things. So he even kept it from his wife I don't know how many, thirty years or so. She didn't know. I knew and because, he's my brother, see, and I love him, so I'm not going to tell.

MR: Also, a woman named Lauren Kessler wrote a book about your family. Could you comment on that?

HY: [Laughs] Well, I feel like a one-man talk show. But anyhow, Lauren became interested in our family because as I told you earlier, my sister Michi should have graduated from University of Oregon in 1941 because, well, 1942, I'm sorry, because she was a senior at the University of Oregon. She couldn't because the curfew law because the graduation ceremonies lasted until 10 o'clock at night. Curfew said after 8 o'clock you can't be outside of your residence which was a dorm in her case. So the dean of women appealed to the military authority to ask them if can they make an exemption so she could, this co-ed can attend her own graduation. They said, "No." There were no appeal for that. So she never, she never got to attend her own graduation ceremony. Well, forty-some odd years later, University of Oregon registrar's looking through the register said, "Hey, this woman was never presented her own diploma in 1942 in May." So they tracked her down and they asked her would she come to a special graduation or to a graduation ceremony in 1984, I think it was, '84, yeah, and be one of our main speakers on the platform. She says, "Well, sure I will," and so that's what happened. And Lauren Kessler, who was a professor of journalism, she happened to be there, and she was intrigued by this story about Michi's getting her graduation diploma and being on the platform with all the bigwigs and making a little speech there about the wartime efforts. She got interested in the family, and then she found out about Min, and then she found about my father, and so, and then she found out that when my oldest brother Chop died, he left a whole barn full of artifacts and possessions and pictures and articles and everything from the store and the home and the farm in the barn in Hood River. And his widow, my sister-in-law, Miki, asked Yuka and me if we would look through this thing and see if there's anything we should keep. So I said, "Well sure, I'll do that," because I was retired by then. But Yuka lived in back east, and she says, "Well, I'll spend what I can." So she spent a couple weeks looking through it. But it was mainly me, and Miki and I, so we went up there for weeks on end sorting through all the things. Hey, this stuff is not only interesting but historically very valuable. So we were not all that dumb this time. We were smart enough to recognize, hey, this stuff is historically relevant. It's important because this is a rare thing because here is an intact collection of an ethno-cultural group. These were very, very rare, so we recognized that. So I talked to two people. One of them was Lou Flannery at the Oregon Historical Society; another one was John Cox who was a librarian at the library at the University of Oregon. I says, "Would you guys be interested in this?" And Doctor Cox says, "Well, yeah. If you can bring it down, we'll take a look at it." But Lou Flannery says, "Oh, yeah. In fact, I'll go up there to look at it with you. And in fact, I'll even bring a truck and two helpers, and we'll haul it down there. We'll put it our storage place at," used to be what they call Beaver Hut, the Meier and Frank warehouse. "We'll put it in there, and it won't cost you a cent, and you can use it and go in there any time you want." I said, "Oh, that's a better deal than what Doctor Cox offered." So that's what we did. Miki and I and two helpers and Lou Flannery went up there. We loaded this, I don't know, twenty-some odd foot truck full of this, and maybe we took two loads, I don't remember, put it all in the beaver house. And in the course of the year, Miki and I'd go down there once or twice, three times a week, and we'd inventory, sort all this stuff up and make notes and stuff, took us a whole year, and then we donated the bulk of it to the Oregon Historical Society. So it worked out well for both of us, for the historical society and for us because our collection got saved, and the Oregon Historical Society now has a unique ethno-cultural collection. So that's why Lauren Kessler got interested also because she could access the primary documents, and that's what she did. She spent about a year going to the historical society, making out longer books, and you know, guided her around, introduced to people. And so Lauren is, knows a lot about our family.

MR: And do you feel the book is an accurate representation?

HY: Oh, it better be because I was the primary source. [Laughs]

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MR: When your brother Min was in jail, did he describe the experience to you, and did he have visitors, and how did he spend his days?

HY: He was a prolific letter writer, and fortunately for us, my sister, my youngest sister Yuka is a prolific letter writer too. They're both very good at it, and so they did change letters, oh, at least once a week. And so we have a, not a platter, but a lot of letters both ways. They're minor copies, of course, from my sister Yuka and Min, and so maybe a hundred letters in total, and this is over nine months' time. So in answer to the question did he have visitors, that was limited because remember he was in the Western Defense Command in Portland, Oregon, and they're no Japanese, essentially no Japanese in, there are exceptions in this area, in the Western Defense Command, so he had no Japanese visitors. But what he did have, he had Caucasian visitors, and one of them was Cora and Buddy Oliver who was a, Buddy Oliver, well, they were both educators, and he was a principal at Westport High School, and he got to know Min through a good friend of, one of his former students, Ron Shiozaki. So he and Cora Oliver would come and visit him and bring him snacks. In the beginning, they wouldn't even let him do that. And then later on, Helen Topping who was, I think she was with the Quakers or something, she came to visit Min. And there was a Chinese couple that used to visit because Chinese were not excluded, so they'd come and visit him. But as far as Japanese Americans or family, no with one exception. When Choppy was going to Montana, he came through Portland, and he stopped off here. I don't know how he did that, but he did see Min at the jail. There's a letter to that effect. God, how'd he arrange that, but he did. And this is in the Western Defense Command on the way to Great Falls. Otherwise, it was letter writing through Yuka because I have one or two to three, but it was through Yuka. Yuka is really a Boswell for Min really. And she, he wrote poems. He wrote, oh, some of these poems are bad. I mean I don't mean they're crude or anything like that, but bad poetry. [Laughs] But the interesting thing, one of them is pretty famous. It's called the, "That Damn Fence." Now some people say, well, that's anonymous, and I say well, maybe it's anonymous because Min used to send copies of this poem to Yuka, but the way he'd send is he'd type them, and he'd type his name, Min Yasui. He didn't sign his name, he'd typed them. So Yuka has oh, dozens or more of these poems, all like "Soliloquy to a Christmas at Minidoka" and "That Damn Fence" and a dozen or more poems. And one of them is "That Damn Fence," and it's verbatim what's in the books. And that's why Yuka says, "Well, it doesn't make sense that he'd send a bunch of poems and one of them was written by somebody else, would it, and with his name on, typed?" So I said, "Well, yeah that's a very persuasive argument." I'd say, "Yeah, that's reasonable that Min did write it, but no proof." So he did a lot of that, but he spent all kinds of time. You know, this guy was really always writing, and I guess it runs in the family because I do that a lot too.

MR: Are the letters also in the Historical Society collection?

HY: Well, no. The originals are, my sister has in the original writing. I have copies, so I don't know what I'm going to do with that. You know, I'm getting along in years, and I think probably, we'll probably either destroy them or maybe turn them over to the Oregon Historical Society.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MR: I just have one more question.

HY: Okay.

MR: Earlier, you spoke about growing up in two cultures.

HY: In what?

MR: In two cultures.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: One fluent in the traditional samurai-type thinking and the other fluent in the individualistic American culture, both hard working, but very different.

HY: Oh, yes.

MR: Can you talk about that experience?

HY: Well, I'd have to modify that a little bit, Margaret, because I wasn't all that proactive. Min was and some of my other siblings were. I wasn't. I was one of these nice guys, quiet, not... Japanese have a saying, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down." Well, I was like that, and I didn't want to get pounded down, so I was quiet and unobtrusive, generally speaking. But, and this is typical Japanese culture to maybe Southeast, maybe it's East Asian culture because I understand the Chinese were like that too. They don't want to draw attention, so I'll be filial, I'll be pious, obey the law, respect authority and so on. And that's the way I was in the Anglo culture too. I mean that's why most, for example, teachers thought, well, it was because, we were quiet and well behaved, did our lessons and all, but we were kind of Pollyannaish, but we didn't know any better. That's the way we were brought up. That's the way we were reared because that's the way our parents were reared, so respect your teachers, you know. They're giving you everything they can for your own good. It's not for their own, so respect them. And same thing with the government and the law and the President and the police chief and even the American Legion until I knew better. So the American culture is that for me, again, personal opinion, personal observation is that it went fine until the dating age. When I say dating age, sixteen, seventeen, because in my experience --and I speak only again for Hood River and for me -- that when it came to the dating age, social contact with the opposite sex stopped, and we did not go to, we did not date Caucasian girl. I didn't date any Caucasian girl, no Caucasian man ever dated a Hood River girl in my knowledge. We dated each other. We were Japanese to Japanese, Caucasian to Caucasian, so there was a tremendous dichotomy there, not a dichotomy, a great difference. I mean, that's when the culture really became evident to me. I've never known a single Nisei in Hood River that ever, ever went out with a white person, either way, either sex. It just stopped because it worked both ways from the Anglo community and from the Japanese community because the Japanese community were in their way provincial and insular to the nation as well. If they don't like it, you don't, you shouldn't be hanging out, and besides, we're proud people of the Yamato race. You know, we're great people, so we don't have to mix with these people who don't want us. And of course the Anglo says, "Well, these are just dirty Japs, you know. These are just FOB, fresh off the boat. They breed like rats and they smoke and they drink and they whore around, and they're no good people, so don't associate with, you're lowering yourself." So from around the dating age, that never happened. To my knowledge and to this day, I don't think, I still think it's true. I've never heard otherwise. It maybe peculiar to Hood River because remember that was a small agricultural community, and you know, everybody knew everybody, and it didn't do to go around with a "Jap kid." You know, it's okay if it is "Jap boy" and "Jap girl," I mean "Jap girl," "Jap boy" or Caucasian boy and a "Jap boy" or a "Jap girl" and a Caucasian girl, but it didn't do otherwise. So that was the way I look at it, and that's the way I remember it.


HY: Well, I'm not sure this is not a fable, but for many, many years when Min was living in Denver, he'd come and visit, we'd notice on one finger, he had a very long fingernail. I mean really long, maybe, oh, half inch or inch long, and I never thought anything of it. He'd dig his ear with it, and he says, "That's real good for digging your ears." And sometimes he'd even clean out his pipe with it, because he was a pipe smoker, and he says, "It's very handy for that." But it turned out according to the legend -- and I think this is kind of a fable, it is a fable, but he says when he was first in the Multnomah County jail for a solid month, they would neither let him cut his hair nor his fingernails, so they both grew shaggy, unkempt, long, disheveled, and ugly. So in commemoration, in memory of that period a one month time when he was in solitary confinement, not allowed to shave, not allowed to cut his hair, not allowed to clip his fingernails, he kept that little pinky fingernail long to remember how that one month was in the Multnomah County jail, that fingernail. That's the story, an apocryphal story, I think, but that's it.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.