Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Homer Yasui Interview II
Narrator: Homer Yasui
Interviewer: Margaret Barton Ross
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: October 10, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-yhomer-02

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

<Begin Segment 1>

HY: Well, the first Japanese sojourners to the Northwest Territory which in those days is Oregon Territory comprising Oregon and the state of Washington came to the Cape Flattery... not Cape Flattery, I'm sorry. I forgot the name of the place where it was, but it was in Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. And this was a cargo vessel, Japanese cargo vessel, that drifted for fourteen months across the sea on the Japanese current, and they washed up on the shore on what is presently the Makah Indian reservation at Neah Bay. And the fourteen original survivors, sailors did not all survive. Only three of them did, and specifically, they were named Otokichi, Kawakichi, and Iwakichi. So I told my daughters about these Kichi guys. "Kichi guys" in Japanese means "crazy," but of course, that's a pun off those whose last names were Kichi, so I called them Kichi guys. But anyway, the word got somehow to the chief factor at the Fort Vancouver which was John McLaughlin. This is 1843, and so he sent a ship's captain to pick up or rescue these stranded Japanese sailors who were being held captive as slaves by the Makah tribe. And so he ransomed them, and he, this captain from the British ship Llama brought them back up the Columbia River and deposited them at Fort Vancouver, and they were the first three Japanese who came to the Oregon Territory. They were at Fort Vancouver, and they went to school there for a little while to try to learn English because Otokichi I think was something like fourteen. He was a young boy.

But there's an interesting story that goes along with this that at this fort at that particular time, there was a man named Ranald McDonald, and Ranald McDonald was a son of a white trader, Andrew McDonald. Anyway, his father was a white trader, and his mother was a Chinookian princess. Her name was Princess Raven, and she was a princess of Chief Connelly who was a Tillamook chief. And Ranald McDonald met these men at Fort Vancouver, and he was so impressed with them that he found out these guys came fourteen months' journey across the sea, thousands of miles away. So Ranald McDonald had an ambition to go to Japan, and he did. He went to Japan and became the first teacher of English to the Japanese people. This was in, I forgot when it was, eighteen, mid 1800s, and he did go to Japan, and that's when he met these Japanese. Now, let's fast forward a little bit more. There's not too much known about these except that eventually these three Kichi guys were returned to Japan or they tried to. They tried to land on Macao, but Japan was a closed country at that time, so the Japanese authorities would not allow them to land in Japan. So two of them stayed in Macao, and one of them, or two of them, I think, helped Cammer or somebody, some German physician, translate the Bible into Japanese. But one of them, Otokichi, he somehow ended up in Singapore; and to this day, I think some of Otokichi's descendants still live in Singapore. Eventually, some of his descendants did come back to Japan, so there's quite a story on that.

But let's fast forward now to the, what would you say, the modern history of the Oregon Japanese, and that would begin with the person named Miyo Iwakoshi. Now, we don't know for sure the background of Miwo Iwakoshi, but she was supposed to have been from a good family, and she came over this country with a man, a white man named Andrew McKinnon who was said variously to be an animal husbandry, you know. He was a farmer, I guess, when they call him husbandry man, a stock raiser I suppose. But they also called him Captain McKinnon too, so I don't know whether that was an honorific name like Colonel Sanders, for example, I don't know. But anyway, he goes by two names. And anyway, Miyo Iwakoshi comes over with this Captain Andrew McKinnon and an adopted daughter. Adopted daughter was nine years old. Her name was Tamani Tobe. And nobody seems to know whose kid this really was, but everybody has their own suspicions, and this is probably Miyo Iwakoshi's real natural child, but nobody really knows that. Anyway, she came over with Captain McKinnon and Tama Nitobe in 1890, and they settled just a little bit outside of Gresham in a little town called Orient, and Orient supposedly got its name because it's the furthest east in Multnomah County. That's one story. The other story, which is the one I prefer, I choose, is that it was Captain McKinnon named that in honor of his Japanese paramour. Nobody ever said that they were married, but nobody ever said they weren't married either, so we don't know that story. But I like the story that he named it after his Japanese bride, Miwo Iwakoshi. That's why he named it Orient Sawmill. Orient still exists, but there's no sawmill there anymore.

Well, Tama grew up, and around 1895 or so when she was fifteen or sixteen, a young, ambitious young peddler, back peddler, comes up walking up from California through the forest trails of -- this is the story -- through the forest trails and all that peddling his little bags of incense and tea and so on, and he comes through the little town of Orient. And here he meets this nice young lady, fifteen, sixteen-year-old Tama Nitobe, so he wants to marry her. His name is Shintaro Takaki, so he hung around a little bit. Now remember, this is the first Japanese family from 1890. This is Tama Nitobe and her mother, adopted mother, Miyo Iwakoshi. So here comes this young sojourner from California. He asks for Tama's hand in marriage, and they get married, and they said, set up the first family in Oregon around 1895, and they had a flock of kids. And their family is kind of star crossed because there's several tragedies in their family. For example, one of the youngest sons, well, they had two sons. Tama Nitobe and Shintaro Takaki had five children, two boys and three girls. One of the girls was murdered by another Japanese farmer. He wanted to marry her. She was only fourteen. He wanted to marry her. But since, she was too young, her mother wouldn't let her. He shot and killed her, and then he cut his own throat with a razor, and he died. Robert Takaki, who I got to correspond with, I never knew him personally, he was shot and killed in an argument in Cour d'Alene, Idaho, by a ninety-year old neighbor. Robert Takaki was seventy-five, so unfortunate. But we have good records of this family. We still have some original photographs, and I returned the photographic albums to the descendants of Robert Takaki. But this is really when the Japanese started coming into the Portland area particularly.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

HY: But Portland was a huge port of entry for the Japanese. One of the reasons for that is around 1900, the railroad business is going great guns, and the reason why it was going great guns is because the Chinese laborers were excluded. Now I don't know whether you're familiar with the Chinese Exclusion Act, but that was enacted in 1882, and it said that no Chinese laborers were allowed in the United States anymore. And every ten years, thereafter... oh, yeah, every ten years thereafter, they renewed that, so they excluded them from 1882, and that immediately stopped the tens of thousands of Chinese laborers, mainly the railroad workers, from coming to the United States. Those who were already here could stay on. But you know, over the years, they're getting older. So about eighteen, twenty years later in the 1900s, the labor force is getting too old, and they were dying off, and they're going back to China and so on. So the railroad magnates, the big shots, Jim Hill and Leland Stanford Huntington, they hired Japanese laborers to come over, and that's when the immigration really took off for the Japanese in Oregon. In Hawaii, it was earlier. In California, it was a little earlier. But in Oregon, it started around 1900.

Specifically, for example, my grandpa Shinataro Yasui came with his two boys, this is Uncle Taitsuro and Renichi in 1898. So my grandpa, I never really knew my grandpa, but he came with his two boys, these are my, these two boys are my father's little bit older brothers, and they worked on the railroad in Eastern Oregon for about two or three or four years, and then they went back to Japan in 1902. And then as I told you earlier on another story that my uncle got married. My father came here in 1903 and, because he knew that one of his uncles, one of his brothers, that's my Uncle Taitsuro , had stayed in the United States. Instead of going back with my Grandpa Shinataro and my Uncle Renichi, my Uncle Taitsuro stayed in the United States, and he was working out of Pocatello, Idaho, which was a big railroad hub in them days. In those days, this is in 1900s, there were thousands of Japanese working in the railroads here. At one time, there reportedly were 13,000 Issei laborers working on the railroads in the Pacific Northwest. And in order to recruit these young men, there were these labor contracting companies, and one of them was Shinzaburo Ban which was in, stationed in Portland. The other one you may have heard of was the Teikoku Company. This is the Matsushima family, and they also recruited laborers. And I don't know which of the organizations recruited my father, but he also worked on the railroad, and he started out in a little town of Turner which is a little bit south of Salem, and this is 1903. And then eventually, he worked on the railroad in Montana and in Idaho. But he was too small, and the work was so hard. It was very, very difficult work. So eventually, he says, "Hey, this is not for me. I came to the United States to learn English, and I'm going to do that." So he quit the railroad, and he came to Portland, and he studied English at the old Couch Street School which doesn't exist anymore. And then he took a job as a houseboy which was a very, very common thing in those days. Then from then on, from that year on, my father had decided, he determined after a couple years here that he's going to stay forever in the United States because even though there was discrimination and things were tough, it was worse in Japan because here in the United States, here in Oregon, they can make almost ten times as much money as they could back in Japan. For him, it was, probably the decision was relatively easy because he was the youngest son. There was only three boys in his family. But the oldest son in traditional Japanese fashion, they stay home to take care of the property and the families, their fathers and mothers. So Taitsuro , my oldest uncle, did go back, and he did exactly do that. But my Uncle Renichi, the middle uncle, and my father stayed in the United States for the rest of their lives. They went to Japan for visits, but they came... well, my Uncle Renichi came in 1890, went back to Japan, then came back to the United States. My father came in 1903, and they stayed. So that was, it was the railroad boom and logging and canning in the Oregon Territory that drew so many of the Issei.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

HY: About in the... just the turn of the century, 1900, it was before blatant discrimination had reared its ugly head in California and in Oregon and Washington. So around 1900, 1903, it was, there weren't a lot of people, white people saying, well, "Keep out you Japs," and things like this. So thousands of Issei did come here, and they got jobs because they were the jobs that a lot of people didn't want to do, very backbreaking jobs like gutting salmon for the canneries and clearing out stumps from the logged over forestry land and building railroads because these were hard jobs, you're out in all kinds of weather. So that was okay; so thousands came. But then from that, then the nativists, interesting. Let me backtrack a little. All of the people who were agitating against these Chinese, the Oriental hordes and the Japanese, were not native-born Americans. For example, one of the most vicious, well, I shouldn't say vicious. One of the most vociferous was a man named Dennis Carney. He was an Irishman. He was an immigrant from Ireland, and he was one of the most rabid anti-Japanese men. He was the one that originated the saying, "The Chinese Must Go." The other one who organized the Anti-Asian Exclusion League was a guy named [inaudible] who was a Norwegian immigrant, and the organization, the... well, I forgot what I was going to say. But anyway, the CIO, no, not CIO, but the other... help me. The organization, the big labor organization.

MR: Oh, AFL?

HY: Yeah, AFL, Samuel Gompers. I think he was Jewish. And these are the guys that were picking on the Japanese and the Chinese. Now maybe it was to defend their own positions, because they obviously were minorities, you know. Anyway, from around 1903, then the drumbeats of hatred started up, particularly from California, so it spilled over into Oregon. So in Oregon, they did have small chapters of the Anti-Asian Exclusion League and the anti-Oriental leagues and so on, but still it wasn't real huge. So in 1903, it was, still a lot of laborers were coming in, let me refer specifically to Hood River which I know because that's where I'm from. Many, many Issei laborers, they were young bachelor men, they went to Hood River, and the main purpose of going to Hood River was, one, was to clear out the logged over stump land because at that time Hood River was becoming known for its orchards, so they hired all these laborers. And because of that, they, at one time they said that there were about 600 Japanese laborers there. And at that time because there were so many of them, the Niguma family started a Japanese store in Hood River around 1903, 1905. The Niguma family still lives there. A representative of the Niguma family still lives there. 1908, my father went to Hood River and decided to move and stay there, so they bought a farm, not a farm, bought a store in Hood River too, and that's how the Yasui family got implanted in the Hood River Valley where we've been ever since, at least part of my family. So the years from 1910 'til the war, 1941, there is a pretty stable population of Japanese in Hood River Valley roughly around 500, 490 people actually. And over the years, they prospered, and they were able to build up the farms, and they all got married, and they raised their families. So by the time the war broke out, they had overcome the disabilities and the disadvantages of the Depression of 1929, and they were, like everybody else, beginning to do pretty well. Things were looking up. Then boom comes Pearl Harbor and that immediately reversed the action of the progress of the Japanese people in the valley. To this day, in my opinion, there's still fallout on that. There's still ill feelings that, I don't think the rift had been totally healed in Hood River yet. In fact, I'm convinced it's not. But anyway, that's, in brief, what it was like for me in Hood River.

MR: Can you explain the Gentlemen's Agreement? I really never understood that.

HY: Yeah. Well, the Gentlemen's Agreement was actually drafted in 1907, and the President, the United States President was Theodore Roosevelt, and his Secretary of State was Elihu Root. And the purpose of the Gentlemen's Agreement was because he agitated, I remember, you remember I told you about Samuel Gompers and Dennis Carney and [inaudible], and they were all raising this ruckus. This is beginning from 1903 about, "Hey, the Japs are coming over. They're going to take over our valleys and our golden hills and all that sort of stuff, so we got to keep them out." So in order to mitigate the rabid sentiments, particularly from the native Californians, Roosevelt directed Root to negotiate with the California legislators. So Root goes to talk to the governor and the state legislators. He says, "You guys simmer down in California. Now, we'll do something about them, but let us handle this because this is a national problem, not a state problem." So the Secretary of State, Root, hammered out an agreement with the Japanese government to the effect that from 1908, now this was drafted in 1907. But from 1908, January, the Japanese government would no longer issue passports for common laborers to come to the United States. So that meant that those laborers that were already there could stay there, and they can send for their wives and family, if they had any. But the Japanese government would no longer issue railroad passports or sugarcane workers in Hawaii and so on from that point on. Teachers, traders, students, wives, children, family could come, and that was the essence of the Gentlemen Agreement. In turn, the Japanese government says, well, they would not only restrict the number of common laborers to the United States, but the federal government, they asked something from the federal government. They wanted the federal government to assure Japan that their people, their immigrants in the United States would be treated more fairly and be treated more equitably, and that was the essence of the Gentlemen's, that was promulgated in the '07 and well, initiated in 1908.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MR: Another question I have is about the marriages. The Chinese immigrants, lots of single men, they didn't marry so much. What was different about the Japanese that they managed to get married and bring their wives?

HY: Well, Margaret, I don't know about how it was with the Chinese. But with the Japanese system, it was customary, in fact, traditional that in Japan, the parents chose the bride particularly for the men, for their son. I suppose it worked both ways. But in the ancient days and up until the Meiji era which is in the 1868 and further on, the family chose the bride for their oldest, for their son. So in many cases in Japan, they never knew each, the bride and groom, the putative bride and groom never knew each other until they met for the first time at what they call an omiai which is the first meeting, and then they exchange gifts and pleasantry and so on. And then if both the potential bride and the potential groom agree, say, well okay, it makes sense, so we'll get married, then they got married, but it was not a romantic love letter and flowers and movies and dates and car rides and things like that in Japan. And even when my parents came over, it was not like that because in Japanese thinking -- and again as I say I suppose it's true in Chinese thinking too -- the family was paramount. The individual was not nearly as important as the family. So whatever was good for the family was good for their kids. So that's why they had this kind of "picture bride" meeting. In many cases, when -- well, not in many cases, most cases, when the Issei, young Issei men came to the United States, they didn't have enough money to go back to Japan. So what they did is they talked to a friend or a trusted relative, not the parents, but some trusted relative, asked them to find a bride for them. So they'd get all the statistics and what they're interested, and so they would find someone, and then they'd exchange pictures. The groom would take a picture and send it back to the... the guy, the middleman is called a nakoudo. It's commonly known as baishakunin, is the middle man, the matchmaker, the Jewish matchmaker. And he would get a comparable photograph from the woman and find out her vital statistics and education and social background, financial background, and so on, and send it to the potential groom. So they'd exchange these photographs at the beginning. And after a while, usually they would initiate some correspondence between the woman and the man. I don't know how much. But anyway, that's the way it usually worked. And in Japan this is perfectly legal because in Japan, in those days, you can get legally married by proxy. So even though the man is in the United States working on a railroad in Tim, not Timbuktu, in Spokane let's say, and his bride was out there in Nanukaichi, by proxy, they could get married. And in Japan in those days, once that they got married by proxy and her name was entered on her husband's family register, that's called a koseki tohon, and that's a legal binding document. It still exists today, and it's still legal and binding. Once it was registered in that book on paper, she was his legal bride in Japan. Now, the Japanese authorities, well, that's sure a strange, weird way of getting married. They didn't much approve of that; but on the other hand, this was Japan law. United States can't tell Japan what to do legally, so they accepted it with some reservations, and the reservation in the beginning was this. Once the so-called, American says this so-called bride -- more like a prostitute -- comes to the United States, they got to get married, so that's what happened. When the bride came and arrived on the dock, her husband in his duted up suit and all that come to meet her, and they get a white preacher, and they get married on the dock. The only problem, neither one could understand the, the proceeding, but they got a legal document, and I have one for my parents, a legal document, November 12, 1912, in Tacoma, and it's signed by some guy I never heard of. But my father knew a little bit of English by then, but my mother, I'm sure, she was totally in the dark what the hell was going on. But that's what happened. In the United States, in order to satisfy everybody, they had to get remarried. So this was the "picture bride" system. You can get married by proxy in Japan legally, and once there, the bride's name was entered in the family register, that was a legal binding document. So they, all intents and purposes were married. See the Chinese, I don't know how they did that because I have no experience with that, but the Chinese did not usually use that method as far as I know. But the Japanese did. They did it by the thousands, tens of thousands. That ended in 1920, voluntarily by the Japanese government. They stopped that because there was so much ruckus raised by the population saying, "That's immoral; that's indecent. They're promoting vice." So the Japanese government, bowing to pressures from the Anglo community, they stopped issuing passports in 1920, so that's when the picture bride era ended. But from about 1900 to 1920, it was in full bloom, and that's one of the reasons why I'm here.

MR: Were there systems in place to help these new brides adjust?

HY: Well, I think there were, but it was very difficult because of the tremendous language barrier. See we're talking about 1910 up to the 1920s. When the brides came home, in Japan, most Japanese in those days didn't know any English. They didn't have good English schools. I know most of these immigrants who came didn't come from the big cities. They came from farm areas; and of course being rural, they would have less education and so on. So when they came to the United States, most of them didn't understand English. And so if they had white teachers, they had to have a white teacher who understood Japanese as well, and those were exceedingly rare things. So what happened is as years went by in 1914, '15, '16, '17 and so on, as more of the earlier picture brides came who would learn a little bit of Japanese, American customs and language, then they did form classes to teach the new brides to come, but it was a really haphazard slipshod affair because there was no organization to it. I would suggest that probably in the cities like in Portland, bigger places like that where they had well organized churches and hierarchical structures of organization, that was probably better because they had more practice and not only that, had [inaudible]. In Hood River, they did have a kind of a half-baked organization to help the picture brides, but it was strictly half baked. Because my mother would have to ask her own children what the significance of something like say Arbor Day is. She had no idea what Arbor Day or in the beginning what Memorial Day or Halloween was because they don't have such festivals or holidays in Japan, so she'd have to ask her own children that, so they had to wait until she had kids. So eventually, she got so she knew, but it took a long time for the Issei women. For Issei women, it was very hard because the, the farm women anyway, maybe not the town people, but the farm women because they didn't have the social interaction with the white community, so it was very difficult for them. So you have to give them a great deal of credit for hanging in there when they were so lonely and nobody to talk to, and they're living with a Meiji man who was a very domineering, strict, male-centered man, very difficult.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MR: Can you talk about living conditions in those early days?

HY: Yes. The living conditions were relatively primitive, but I would have to speak from my own experience in Hood River because I don't know about how it was in the cities. But in Hood River when we were growing up, again, again, Hood River was a small town about a little less than 3000 people. It was in, the valley itself was a rural community, and this was where most of the Japanese people lived. They lived outside of the city of Hood River. The biggest other town, I guess, would be, oh, maybe Odell, and Odell has maybe, had maybe 150 people living there. I mean, it was really small. So the family outside of the town of Hood River who lived in little farmhouses and maybe separated a quarter a mile, half a mile from the nearest neighbor, and so they had to depend upon themselves rather, so they raised a lot of their own food, and they came to town to the Hood River Yasui Store for the staples and so on. But the farm folks, the Japanese farm folks -- we're talking about the Japanese now in the valley -- most of them had what they call an ofuro. This is a Japanese style bath which is usually built, made in an outbuilding, and the way you do that, it sounds kind of primitive, but it was kind of nice, it's in a different building by itself, and they have a, usually, it was a concrete tub but could be metal, and the bottom of the tub, they'd have, they'd have slabs of iron, and they've actually build a fire underneath it, and you boil the water in this tub. There's a tap, just a cold water tap that pours water, and say it's the size of a fifty, sixty, seventy-gallon tub, and it's usually, it was usually round, and you put this old kindling wood in there and paper and you strike a match, and it boils the water, so you get kind of boiled in the tub if you let it get hot. But of course, there's always the cold water tap too. And then they had boards, these are floating boards, because you can't stand on the bottom on the hot iron, you know. So they had these floating boards, and sometimes the boards are -- you'd be standing on the hot iron. That didn't happen very often because you're very, very careful. But those baths were the greatest things, you know. They were very relaxing. What you do in the Japanese tradition is you soap yourself and wash yourself and rinse yourself off real thoroughly outside of the tub, and then you get inside the tub to soak and relax. And to this day, it's still a great, great thing, but you can't find that much anymore. In those days, that's the way the farmers were. They had the ofuro. So in Hood River where I lived, we had a bathtub and that wasn't nearly as much fun, much more efficient, but it wasn't nearly as much fun. Never get your feet burned. [Laughs] Oh, yeah.

But and again too, there was a food situation too because we ate ethnic foods. Now when I was growing up, we ate a lot of rice and things like misoshiru which was still staples, and rice is still a staple. And to this day, I far prefer rice to bread. I mean, bread is okay. But to me, it's no, nothing like rice because with rice alone I could live on that. I can't eat just a piece, loaf of the bread and live on that. But so food was a very, very important thing. And then of course in the Hood River, there's certain festivals that was very, very important just like now, probably of prime importance was Oshogatsu. That's New Years in Japanese, and that's a highly important event. And so the Japanese people would gather. And usually what would happen, Christmas later on became important, but let me tell you about Shogatsu. They'd gather at this Japanese community hall which maybe at max had a capacity of maybe 400 people, not the entire Japanese valley population. And then they'd have movies, and these were, in those days, these were silent movies. And before I can remember, the silent movies had a kind of an interpreter, translator, and he's called a benshi. And he'd sit on a wooden bench in front of the screen, facing the audience, here's the picture shown back here, and he'd intone, "And the samurai come charging up and... [yells]." This is what the role of the benshi, he took the parts and [speaking in falsetto]. He'd take all the parts of the character of the screen because it was silent, see, and that was the benshi. And my sister says oh, they were great, but I don't remember the benshi at all. Now, later on, they had subtitles, but of course, the subtitles were in Japanese. For little kids like us, we couldn't read this. Then eventually, about two or three years before the war, then they have silent movies, and it was in Japanese, very popular type, what we call chambara. These are the sword fighting, two men sword fighting. They were very, like the American Westerns were at one time. And so the Japanese community would gather and they'd have celebrations.

Let me tell you another interesting thing about Hood River. I can only speak of Hood River because I've had experience with it, and that was called tensho setsu. Tensho setsu is not celebrated anymore, but what it was, in those days, now, I'm talking about particularly from the 1930s until war, 1941, okay. Tensho setsu was actually in my experience the celebration honoring of the birthday of Emperor Hirohito. It's his birthday. And what the Japanese would do, they'd gather again in this Japanese community hall, 400 of us and so on, they'd have a very solemn ceremony on this stage up there. There'd be a big photograph of the Emperor Hirohito and his Empress Nagako, and it would be covered with a black screen. And then when everybody, everything, preparations were made, everybody would stand at attention. The curtain would slowly part, and there was a picture of the emperor, and then bow very deeply. It's very solemn now, no laughing allowed on this business. Anyway, then some leader, usually it was an Issei leader, so frequently, not infrequently, it was my father. He'd get up, and he'd say, "Tennouheika banzai," and everybody would say, "Banzai, banzai, banzai." Can you imagine what a white person walking outside of that would have thought, what the hell are these Japs doing in there? They're getting ready for a banzai raid? They're doing something patriotic. Oh, man. If the mayor of Hood River came by at that time, they would have been appalled, I think.

But they'd have to understand, the Issei were only citizens of Japan. They have no possibility of becoming an American citizen. You know why? Because in 1922, Takao Ozawa was refused citizenship by naturalization. This was a very important seminal case. He was an Issei born in Japan, but he was reared in Hawaii, and he married a Nisei. And he never spoke Japanese, attended American schools and American, not American schools, churches. But he applied for citizenship in 1922, and the United States government, it went to the Supreme Court, and they refused him because he was an alien ineligible for citizenship. Well, that's very interesting, so that was a seminal case, and that really disheartened Niseis because, there's no way you can overcome that. This is the law of the land. Well, I think a year or two later, there was another Supreme Court case. It was based on race, okay. The Japanese were a Mongolian race, and the only people who could be naturalized in those days was the white race and the black race because the 14th Amendment or 17th Amendment, 14th amendment, well, whatever one it was, allowed the blacks after Civil War to become naturalized, to become American citizens. So it included only the white race and the black race, not the red race. Okay. So, the Japanese were yellow people and, therefore, ineligible. Well, in 1923, another case come up. This one was a case of Thind, T-H-I-N-D, against the United States. He was an East Indian, and he applied for citizenship in the United States, and he was refused because he was not a white person. He says, "Wait a minute, I'm an East Indian; I'm a Caucasian." By definition of Caucasian is white. Well, the color is not right because he's dark, so they refused him too. So it was very, very confusing in those days. Wait a minute, on one hand they say citizenship is determined by race. On the other hand, they say it's determined by color, and yet black people is a citizen, and Thind is not as black as the native, of the blacks in America, so it was highly confusing. But that's, those were the two Supreme Court decisions. So anyway, getting back to all this, because of the 19, the Takao Ozawa decision, Supreme Court decision, the Issei knew that they couldn't become citizens in the United States, so what the heck. Of course they're going to put all their faith and trust in their own land, and of course they're going to do it in their own leader. Why the Americans did that and President Roosevelt, so and so, is only natural; so of course, they're going to celebrate their own holidays. What else could they do? So yes, they had tensho setsu and tensho setsu was a big, big thing, banzai. [Laughs] Oh, that was fun.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

HY: Well, Margaret, you were asking about what influence the Issei women had on carrying on the tradition and the culture of the Japanese. Well, they had a lot to do with it. It wasn't flamboyant as say the tensho setsu and some of the other parties, but they were sensitive to things like Boys' Day and Girls' Day which was pretty important to them. And the other one for the Buddhist family particularly was Obon. Obon is, are you familiar with Obon? Okay. Well, Obon is kind of a, I suppose you could say fairly that it's a celebration of dead. In other words, this is when the Japanese, well, Buddhists, welcome the return, spiritually at least, of their deceased, their ancestors. They're welcomed back to the land of the living, here. And for this occasion, they'd have dances and eating and flower arranging and things like that. It's a festive occasion. It's a real very nice tradition when you stop to think of it. They're welcoming these spirits of their ancestors back to the land, see how your descendants have done. They've done pretty good. We're getting along fine. We're healthy and we're working and all that. So then they have the dancing to celebrate the return of the people. They do tanko bushi and all that sort of stuff, and they eat well. And so the Buddhists did that usually in the bigger cities. In Hood River, not so much, but they did it individually in their own homes. They welcome, they put little servings of food, little bits of incense in their house. They call that a, household shrine called a butsudan. So in the bigger cities though, they'd have even more than that. In some of the big cities, they even had ceremonies after three days saying farewell to the ancestors, sending them back to the never-never land where they come from. And in Japan, they have a beautiful ceremony called Naga something. Anyway, what they do is they have floating candles on little boards, and they float it down the river, and you see these thousands of lit candles floating out to sea, and this is symbolic of the spirits of their ancestors returning to heaven. It's a beautiful thing. It's a beautiful thing. So we didn't have that in Hood River because there weren't that many Buddhists. But such things as New Year's celebration was very, very important. That was probably the most important one for the Hood River people.

New Years, I don't know why it had such importance in the Japanese psyche and spirit, but it does, even to this day. So it was supposedly a day when you renewed everything. You paid your old debts, and you cleaned your house, and you look forward to a new year for prosperity and good health and good wishes. So symbolically, it was highly important. While not everybody did it, you know. I don't remember us spending a week cleaning the house. I don't think we spend a day cleaning the house. [Laughs] Well anyway, I remember my mother spending a lot of time preparing foods, and these were special foods that most of the time you don't get. And you know, even Nisei women like my wife, she still prepares these things because she's brought up as a Nisei too, and she knows what this is like and how much it meant to our parents, you know. So I mean, things that you never get like black beans, you never get black beans. But all of these foods, most of them anyway, have a symbolic meaning. For example, black beans is called mame, and somehow mame is associated with money. I don't know if it means money or not. Someone like Tim could tell you, I don't know. But anyway, they served things like that, and they'll have things like iseebi which is a spiny lobster. And the reason why they serve spiny lobster is because the lobster has a bent back, you know the shell, the tail, bent. This is a wish that you can grow old enough to have a bent back like a spiny lobster. And so a lot of these foods have great, great meaning. And one of the primary things the Japanese will always have at Oshogatsu, New Years, is what they call mochi. Mochi or pounded rice cakes, and you've been to these mochitsuki, and this tradition goes back for centuries, maybe millennia as far as I know. And in Hood River even, they used to have a rice pounding, but not as a community thing. Usually, it was just a couple families, two or three families. They'd get together and pound the rice cakes. But now, it's become a good thing and a big thing, and it's a good thing because it allows the Yonsei, the fourth generation, the fifth generation, Gosei, and Rokusei, sixth generation, to see what it was like when their forebearers came to this country, in the turn of the century, 1900, over a century ago, and how it was like and how things have evolved, and yet some of these traditions have remained the same. You know after all, this country, we still celebrate Thanksgiving, and that was started 300, more than 300 years ago. And we try to think, well, the pilgrims were, got corn from the Iroquois or from Squanto or whoever it was, and they got the turkey. And so we still celebrate it, and we kind of think back to those days. So there's no different. The Japanese do this for New Year's. That's very important.

But Boy's Day was kind of important because boys in those days were considered more important than girls, so they'd have Boy's Days. And Boy's Days we're supposed to grow up with manly virtues, be bold and be strong and be brave and be smart and be everything, you know. So they'd have things like, have you ever heard of koi nobori? Okay. Koi nobori is, you've seen these, have you ever seen these cloth or paper carp streamers flying? That's koi nobori. And usually what they did in Japan, we didn't do so much here, is you flew one for each one of your boys on I think it's in March, sometime in March. They fly these carp streamers. And the symbolism is that in Japan, a carp is considered a very strong fish, and it will swim up the most fierce rapids and falls desperately to get to where they have to go to spawn. So they'll overcome all odds to go upstream, so that symbolically want their boys to do that too. Another symbol for Japanese boys is they would have these very ornate samurai helmets. It's called a kabuto, and because they're pretty expensive, not all families could afford them. But if they could, then they, sometimes, they'd make them out of paper, fake helmets, but that was important. And then probably more important from the Issei women's point of view was hinamatsuri which is Girls' Day. And the reason why it was probably more important to them is because most Issei women had one or two or three or four Japanese dolls. Hinamatsuri is usually celebrated in Japan by a collection of the imperial family doll. You know, big collections will have, oh, I don't know, twenty, thirty dolls dressed in this brocade and fancy clothes and lamps and all that sort of thing. But even so, people like my mother would come with maybe two or three because she got this as a girl herself. Usually, the parents gave a doll or two to their daughters for every hinamatsuri. So over the years, they would amass of collection of these dolls. So they, most Issei women had some dolls, not all of them maybe, but some. And so they'd come, bring them over. And of course, they, when they became mothers, they'd want their own daughters to have, know a little bit about this, so they'd teach their daughters about hinamatsuri. So all Nisei women know a little bit about hinamatsuri, far more than I would know about it. So that was another important celebration.

Now, it wasn't really a celebration but a very, very important event, an affair, that took place, and this is I think as far as I know, universal in the United States, maybe Hawaii too, was undoukai. Undokai was a combination picnic and a field day, and there, the people gathered usually, it was usually an all-day affair, and some of these were very elaborate. For example, in my wife's family in Los Angeles, they'd spend weeks getting ready for this. They'd, scope out the place, and they usually do year after year, so it was easy. But they'd practice for program dances and music and singing and oratory and all that, and they spend weeks getting ready for this. In Hood River, since we were not a big community, we'd spend maybe a week or so, but the elders would get ready. They'd hire or rent a place or find this place and lay out the land, cut the grass and so on. In Hood River, the undoukai, this big field day/picnic combination, was held usually in the Mosher Ranch that the Yasui family owned, and oh, two or three, four hundred people of the valley would gather. This was not at any special day. Usually, it was in the summertime when the kids were off from school and when the harvest was over, when the cherry season was over, which is in July usually. So after that, they had undoukai, and we'd spend the day eating and gossiping and singing. And always, there were organized races, sack races, potatoes, and three-legged races and swimming and so on, and that was a big thing. They held them all over, any Nisei will tell you, yes, they had undoukai. That was a big thing too.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MR: Regarding children, as I understand it, at the beginning of their life, they can kind of do anything they want, but then discipline and expectations grow as they grow. Can you talk about that?

HY: Well, the Japanese culture -- I'm going to go back seventy years or so -- Japanese culture, in those days, was that a boy usually could do no wrong, especially the firstborn. Man, they were spoiled rotten because that was the sign of the family, apple of daddy's eye, got to take after my name and take over my farm and my fortune and so on, so the boys were treated royally. And as I say, they are still treated rotten in Japan as far as from my prospective because they are allowed to get away with almost anything. They can be the most ornery, most abusive, most obnoxious brats you could ever imagine. And then for some reason as the years go by, I don't know how it works, but it's magical, these kids become pretty decent people. How in the heck does that work because nobody reprimands them, nobody says, "No, no, no, don't do that, bad, bad." They don't do that. [Inaudible], don't do things like that. That's what they'd say. They won't bash you. In Japan, they don't do that. But eventually, kids that were so bratty and so ornery and so mean and so cruel, most of them turn out to be fine people, and I guess it must be group pressure or something. But again in the United States, it was like that too because my older brothers were awful ornery, and then they turned out to be good brothers, you know. I liked them. So I don't know how they worked that magic, but it worked. And of course, we took our cues from our oldest siblings because I'm next to the tail end, but I have older brothers who were examples for me. And some of the examples weren't so good because one of them taught me how to smoke, and the other one taught me how to play poker. And my father, being a very devout man as a Christian, he thought that he was mortal sin; smoking, drinking, gambling, dancing. He thought that would equal up to fornication, I think. [Laughs]

MR: And were the girls treated the same way as very small children?

HY: Oh, no. Well, the girl, my sister -- and I'm thinking from personally -- because I think they were spoiled rotten. That's my personal view because, well especially my father, well, my mother was always a very gentle person. And she, she wasn't real boisterous at all. Like I told you much earlier on, she let things come to her, and then she'd handle it as things happened to her. My father was more proactive, so he had different ideas, and he'd rant and rave sometimes, not always, but sometimes. But he was always very proud of his girls because, well, there's three of them originally. One died at a very young age, and I think that really made him appreciate how dear life is because my sister Yuki died when she was around four, and beautiful child from the pictures. So he, and he only had two girls after that. He had six boys, five, yeah, six boys, so boys were cheap. [Laughs] So he valued his daughters, and it helped that my sisters were very bright too because he admired brains too. This is my father. My mother did too because she was a teacher. But my father, he wouldn't hesitate to let you know that he admired brains. He wouldn't brag about the kids, but he admired, so that helped. And the fact that one of my sisters was talented in singing and dancing also helped too because she performed for the Caucasian audience, see. She was the Hood River Japanese Shirley Temple. [Laughs] Yeah, she was. So she did perform for the Rotary Club and the school assemblies and so on. She was okay.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MR: What was it like when the Nisei children started school?

HY: When the Nisei children started school?

MR: Yeah.

HY: Well, okay. In Hood River, it was very different. For example, because I was next to the youngest, I had older siblings who spoke the language, who knew what school was all about, who'd already gone through before me, so it was pretty easy for me. But as I understand from my oldest brother, because he didn't know a word of English when he started when he was five for six years old, so I think he had an awful time, but he quickly caught up to speed. But for the first Nisei children, they had the same trouble, and my wife's oldest sister also, I'm told, she didn't know any English either when she first started school. So for the first year or two, it must have been quite difficult, learning the language and learning the rules, the behavior and so on. But at the same time, Margaret, we, including me, didn't know some of the proper social behavior because we were never taught this. See, my parents from Japan, the social behavior and the culture is different than the American culture, and they didn't know. They didn't learn that from their childhood. They had to learn that as adults, and that's very hard to do. So little things like asking permission to go to the bathroom and so on, in the Japanese family at home, we never did that, never asked for permission to go bathroom. You had to go, if you were eating, you just get up and go. You don't say, "Daddy, can I go to the bathroom?" Or in the classroom, you don't ask the teacher, "Teacher, I have to go." They don't do that. They just get up and go and so on. And I observed that when I was in my first grade, and boy I really had to go, but I didn't know where the bathroom was. I was getting more antsy, and pretty soon, I let it go on the floor. And my teacher, Mrs. Cornelius, she comes up and she goes, "Why didn't you say you had to go to the bathroom?" I didn't know where the toilet was. So Mrs. Cornelius sent me home. First day of school, first grade, I didn't know I was supposed to ask. I was too embarrassed and to bashful to ask, so I peed in my pants in my first day in school. That was awful. I still remember that. [Laughs]

MR: How was it to, when you were in school, how was it on the playground?

HY: Oh, well, the playground was generally pretty good. It was not real discriminatory because by that time, after, kids being what they are, after a while, they'll accept you for what you can provide and what you are. I mean, they knew we were different and so on, but after a while, you plan sides. And if you're a good athlete, well, sure, they're going to pick you first because they want to win. They want to be on the winning side. So the playground was, generally was not very difficult. It didn't, in my case, I was just a mediocre athlete, but I had some brothers that were good athletes; and of course, they were always picked first because they were good athletes. So that helped the fact that my, I had brothers who were very bright, and I had sisters who were very bright. That all helped me because they kind of paved the way for me. So you know, even if I was mediocre, I can, ride on their coattails a little, and that really helped. So that was me. I was a coattail rider.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MR: How did the Nisei maneuver themselves through the various systems; taxes, banking? If they couldn't speak the language so well, how did they manage to get these things taken care of?

HY: Oh, with great, great difficulty. First of all, almost all communities, this is a big community or a small community like Hood River or even the Dalles, they usually had one elder. When I say elder, somebody who's more educated or who is more adaptable, who voluntarily or otherwise took on the role. The other thing that the Japanese did, they are great organizers, and they invariably form what they call a Japanese Association. It's called, in those day it was called a Nikkeijinkai. And a Nikkeijinkai, the ancestral society now, what we call the Portland Ancestral Society, their precursor was the Japanese Association. They were the people who would do the interpretation, the translation, legal thing, and do the work. If they didn't have an organization, like in Hood River, we did have an organization, but my father because of his, by virtue of his English capabilities, became the de facto leader of the community because he could translate. He could read and write English and he can, do all these sort of things, where there were other Issei men that could do it, but probably not as well as my father. In Portland here, they had educated men who, they had several medical doctors who graduated from medical school. You have to know English for that, but they were busy in their profession. But they had at least one, maybe two other men who had gone to law school. Now being Issei, you have, in order to be a licensed attorney in Oregon anyway, you have to be a citizen, U.S. citizen. Issei could not be citizens. So even though Daichi Takeoka graduated from the University of Oregon Law School in 1912, he was not licensed. But he did graduate from law school, so he became a legal adviser. He was not an attorney. He didn't charge. He became a leader and a legal attorney for the... legal adviser for the Japanese community. That was one man. The other man was probably Senichi Tomihiro who ran the Foster Hotel. He probably also graduated from the law school too. But again, he could not be licensed, so then these men were both capable of writing and reading English. They were as good if not better than my father, both of them. They're very fluent. They did have accents because English was always their second language, but they were very good. And so that's the way the Isseis handled these things either through by virtue of a leader and every little community had one, at least one, sometimes several. But almost all communities also had a Japanese Association, so they went to that. Plus, they had other support systems, many, many support systems. Japanese are just tremendous organizers, and they'd have kind of like trade unions. They're not exactly trade unions, but well, kumiai is an example. It's a business organization like the hotel owners' association or the merchant's association or the apartment's association. Then they had the church groups. Then they had the welfare society, so they have all kinds of support groups. So one way or another, you could find your way getting an answer to, if you had to register for say alien registration, they, most of them would go to the Nikkeijinkai, the Japanese Association, to have somebody help you. Particularly because the women, most of them couldn't read or write English, so that's the way they did it. But the Japanese Associations were extremely important. The interesting thing is in Japan, they have no equivalent to Japanese Association. They don't need them in Japan. It's a unique organization in countries overseas from Japan because they have them all over, and they still have it in Japan. It's changed, the focus has changed. The primary purpose was still the same.

MR: After the Issei got here, was there much communication back to Japan?

HY: Oh, yeah. Communication, of course, it was in letter form, yeah, oh, yeah, and some telegram and so on. But physical communication in terms of going back for vacation, trips, that was pretty uncommon because that takes a lot of money. But communications, oh yeah, from letter because almost all Japanese were literate to one degree or another. If they couldn't write their kanji which is a classical Chinese, they can at least write the syllabalry which is hiragana or katakana, so they can write, read and write. But traveling back and forth was not a common thing.

MR: At one time, your family did go back?

HY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, my family went back in 1926, in the summer of 1926. And my family took the, well, my father and mother and let's see... my sister Yuki was dead by then, so there were eight of us, no, Yuka wasn't even born, so there were seven of us, see. Yuka wasn't born until 1927, so there was seven. My mother was pregnant at that time with Yuka. So we went back to Japan to a little town on Nanokaichi. And of course, I don't remember because I wasn't quite two years old then, but we have photographs from this visit, and we, there's a nice photograph where we visited the family cemetery in Nanokaichi. In those days, a lot of families had their own kind of a private enclosure cemetery. We had one, and there's a big family photograph taken there, and we stayed there, oh, probably a couple months in Japan. That was the last time my father really went back to Japan. Well, it was the only time that my mother and father went back to Japan until after the World War II, so they hadn't seen Japan for a long time. But they were constantly exchanging letters with relatives back there.

MR: In Hood River, the Issei were able to own property which they gained you said yesterday from, in payment for clearing stumps. What happened when they could no longer own property?

HY: Well, there was never a time when they could never own property because the basic strategism for owning property was not directly in their own, and they could not own property in their own name. What they did is they owned property through their surrogates which were their children. So even minor children like my brother Chop, property was bought in his name when he was a teenager, and he couldn't legally own that. But my father was his guardian, therefore, he controlled my brother who controlled the land. So by that strategism, and that was perfectly legal. The other thing that the, some Japanese did earlier until it was declared illegal, is they formed owner corporations, and they incorporated, the corporation would buy the land. Later in California, that was declared illegal, circumventing the law, because the major stockholders of the corporation were Japanese aliens ineligible for citizenship. But the corporation could own the land, so, but that was as I say declared illegal. So the main ploy was to buy land in the name of your own children. Now, in certain families, they didn't have any children. So what they'd do is they borrowed the name of a friend's child, and they'd buy the land in his name. Now that depended a great deal on trust because if this Nisei who, maybe a teenager didn't want, when he became of age, hey, this is my land. I'm twenty-one. This says this belongs to Tim Rooney. [Laughs] So you can say this is my land; you don't have it. But that was, the social structure was so tight in the Japanese community, that was very, I've never heard of anybody doing that, but it was legally possible to do that as you can see. But I've never heard of anybody violating that trust when somebody was holding land for a non-relative. But those are the two basic ways.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MR: Portland's Old Town had a reputation for being pretty wild, I understand. Did the Hood River, younger men from Hood River go there and have a good time?

HY: [Laughs] Oh, boy. That's a leading question, but I'll answer it this way. I don't know my own personal knowledge. I've heard stories, and I read about it. But let me go back and tell you about Hood River in the beginning. In around 1904 in Hood River, there's, as I say, somewhere between 400 and 600 young bachelor men laboring on the farms, clearing the stumps. Well, and as I said, there was the Nigoma family had already started a grocery store, and there was supposed to be a type of a restaurant in Hood River too. So using an example, Mr. Tomita came to Hood River in 1904, and he was a single farmhand, and he worked on a farm in a place called Pine Grove which is about four miles from the town of Hood River. So after a days' working in the summertime, he walked into town, he walked into town four miles in town. He'd go to the Okawa Noodle Shop and have a bowl of noodles, and then he'd go to the bathhouse, sento. I don't know where that was, but he'd go to the bathhouse, you know Japanese tub and clean up and so he'd smell nice. And then he'd go play, shoot a game of pool, so they must have had a pool hall there too. And then he'd go to ogle the girls, never to buy, just to look at the girls because they had a whorehouse there in town. And according to... what was his... Chiho Tomita, he says that whorehouse was in the Nigoma store. Upstairs was the hotel, and he'd go up there. I don't know if that's true, and one of the Nigoma sisters says, no, it wasn't the Nigoma store. It was the Yasui store that had that whorehouse, but I don't know. Don't ask me because I don't know. But anyway, Chiho says he just went to look. Taylor says, "Well, that sounds like my father." [Laughs] So anyway, so they did have places where the men could dissipate their money and their wealth and their virtue, I guess, even in the Hood River. But in Portland, the question that you asked, yes. From what I read, they did have some rampant wide open gambling as far as, as early as 1906, the consul general of San Francisco sent one of his co-consul. It was Chitemi, Sutemi Chinda up here to investigate how the Japanese were living in places like Portland and Spokane and Tacoma and Seattle. And he, Chinda, the consul's agent, reported that things were terrible in Portland. Most of the men were ne'er do wells and gamblers and pimps and prostitutes. This is 1906, and he reported, gave terrible report and also in Tacoma and also in Seattle, so it sounds like they had nothing but bums and vagrants here and prostitutes. But later on, this is again reading, I don't know personally, I heard stories, they had a gambling house in Portland called the Koshin Club, and it was in downtown, in J-town, Japantown, the old town, what they call Old Town now, and it was a gambling joint. And one of these men was involved in a murder of a Japanese, of another Japanese. I don't know why or what, but there was supposed to be such a thing. And of course, they had the so-called pink houses, and I don't know if you're familiar with Kazuo Ito's book called Issei, but it's a very thick book, and he has drawn a map of Portland in there, and one of them was this pink house. Now I ask these people, "What is this pink house?" And of course it was a house of prostitution, a house of ill repute, but nobody wants to say it was, and they don't want to put a name to it, so they called it pink house. But it obviously existed, so you know, hey, Japanese are no more angels than anybody else, no more virtuous than anybody. They got the warts and moles and blemishes just like everybody else. They just do it differently. So yeah, they had such things.

MR: Did the Japanese government take steps to try to improve the reputation?

HY: Oh, well, the Japanese government did. in a way, and the way they did that was working through the Japanese consul. The Japanese consul was a very, very powerful organization in those days. It still is. But in those days, they were even more powerful because they represent the might of imperial Japan, and Japan was kind of a power to be reckoned with in those days. So the Japanese consul indirectly wielded his influence by working the Japanese Association. Those Japanese Associations were ubiquitous. They were all over. And the, one of the main functions of the Japanese government was through the Japanese consul, working with the Japanese Association. He could not give direct orders to the Japanese Association. But if the people, the Japanese people living in let's say Portland want to go to Japan, they had to work through the Japanese consul to get a passport or visa to go to Japan, so he had a lot of power. And if he said that an Issei citizen was a gambler or murderer or something, he could get these people sent back to Japan, so he was powerful in that sense. So he wielded a lot of not only moral authority but also political authority by working through the Japanese Association. So in that way, the Japanese government did exercise control over the Japanese people, but it was, without the Japanese Association, it would never work, I don't think. The Japanese Association were highly, highly important. So yeah, the Japanese government did control the people.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MR: How did the Depression affect the Japanese community?

HY: Well, in Hood River because farm communities I don't think were hit quite as hard as the businesses where you have to depend on moving dresses and shoes and cars and things like that. In farms, you can raise your own pigs and chickens, and you can eat if not, you can't, maybe don't have any money to buy clothes and shoes and butter, but at least you can eat, so it wasn't that bad. But the problem was people who were still paying mortgages, see, you got to have money to pay the mortgage, and that's why there were so many foreclosures because money ceased to exist, so they couldn't do this. So in the, as far as I know, in the city of, not city, the county of Hood River, population about ninety Japanese families about that time, where one family that asked for government welfare and she would happen to be a widow. And after things got better, she did get welfare. The only one I ever heard of. She eventually paid back the government for what she got during that period of time. I don't know. That may be an apocryphal story, but that's what I heard. That's what my oldest brother told me. He says, "That's the truth. Only one person, a widow, asked for government handout." Japanese generally don't because Japanese, in those days and even maybe now, help each other a lot. They depend on each other. And rather than go into, they know the government's there to help them, but they'd rather not do that, so they prefer to go to friends or to kenjin which is prefectural people, or to a Japanese organization to ask for help before they'll go to a politician or the federal government. So that was the way the Japanese handled that. They'd ask each other. So there's a lot of mutual support there in those days.

MR: The Yasui Brothers Store was selling dresses and shoes, and how did they do during the Depression?

HY: Well, the Yasui Brothers did okay even during the Depression because it kind of had a far flung empire in those days, so you know, although the money didn't come in, there was still always income from... because my father was always doing something. He kind of helped the pioneer the asparagus industry, and so money would come in from that; and then of course, there's the grocery store. The thing is during the Depression, of course, nobody had any money to pay. Well, very few people had money to pay. So what they did is they bartered a lot of things. They'd bring in chickens. Well, for example, I remember one year we had six turkeys for Thanksgiving, and they were live turkeys. I was a little kid, but I thought, my heavens, we got a flock of turkeys, and they got strings around their neck and pound it with a string tied to the stake. And we ate those darn things, but I don't know how long it took us because the people couldn't pay for the sacks of rice, their miso or the noodles, so they'd bring us, because they can raise turkeys, and they could raise pigs. Sometimes they'd bring us things like boxes of smelt. In the Sandy River, they used to have smelt running because, well, they'd do it for two reasons. One was out of goodness of the spirit, and two, because they had too many fish, but they'd bring us boxes of smelt. You know, in those days in the summertime, smelt don't keep very long. We didn't have freezers. And then there's another man who used to find these matsutake, these mushroom, and he'd bring it to the store to barter, and my uncle and things would barter it for something else or exchange. So we survived all right. I don't remember my father, I'm sure it affected my father because in all my life, I never heard him say anything to do, fukieki. Fukieki means hard times, difficult times, and he, he'd squeeze a penny. Oh man, Abe Lincoln always hollered. You'd say, "Dad, give me a quarter. I want to go movies." "Quarter? You know how much a quarter is? In those old days, it would take you almost a whole day to make a quarter. Here, I'll give you ten cents." "You can't go to the movies for ten cents anymore, Dad." "Well, okay, but spend it wisely. Here's a quarter." He'd always remind us the value of money, always, never failed. He never missed.

MR: During the Depression, he had kids in college; is that right?

HY: No, not in the Depression.

MR: Not in the Depression?

HY: No. That was a little bit before. See, my oldest brother was born in 1913, and he died when he was seventeen, so he wasn't in college and so Chop... the Depression was 1929. But towards the tail end of the Depression, yes, he did have some kids in college like my oldest brother Chop and Min. Min started in 1934, so you know, it was still Depression era. It wasn't the Depression, but it was still Depression era, but that's right. But as I say, my father, at that time, my father and uncle, remember, my uncle is half the equation. But he was kind of a silent partner like my father was a silent partner in the store, but they were always one, okay. So he had, as I say, interest in somewhere between 800 and 1000 acres of land, and this is all producing, most of it was producing property, so he had income of sorts. So that's why he was land rich. Probably he owned as much land as anybody in Hood River at that time, at that particular time. So he had some income, so he was able to send my two brothers to college. It was during the war when the income was seized because the leasing or the selling of the land that he had to sell the land, and that's why land poor now, well, not land poor, but not land rich anymore. But of course, he's long since gone, and he didn't have anything or had very little to do except give his yes or no approval to selling the land because he was in prison. So yes, we had money.

MR: During the Depression and maybe earlier, how did people get around in Hood River?

HY: You mean --

MR: Transportation. What --

HY: Oh, well, of course, I don't remember personally, but we had cars, of course. I don't remember the horse and buggy days. And they had buses, but mainly, I think they went by train to Portland and Hood River, between Portland and Hood River; although, they had buses later on. In Hood River, they had also the Mount Hood Railroad. That's a very interesting story. The Mount Hood Railroad was from the town of Hood River built to spur line to the town of Dee, actually a hamlet of Dee, which was located the Oregon Lumber Mill. It was a sawmill then. The people who built that railroad in 1908 was Kanichi Itano and his crew of forty Japanese laborers. They built that railroad spur line some ten miles from the Hood River main line which is the Union Pacific Line to Dee. And then four years later, they extended that to Parkdale. That line still exists, and it's the Japanese that built that. Of course, they didn't engineer it. They're the ones that provided the muscle. So that was one way they got from Dee to Parkdale to Odell. This is on this spur line to Hood River. But in addition to that, there was a Mount Hood, what they called a Mount Hood Traction Company. And what it was was they had what they called a jitney, but it was a kind of a truck body mounted on wheels, railroad wheels, but it was driven by a gasoline engine, so they called it a jitney. It was kind of formed as a bus system. But of course, it had to go on the rail, so it only went to Pine Grove, Odell, Dee, and Parkdale and back, so that was another way. And then Hood River had one taxi, but you know, I think that was after the Depression, I don't think it was during the Depression. So we did a lot of walking too in those days too. But our family always had a car as far as I can remember, and most of the people, farmers did too. I don't know of any that didn't have a car. That's the way we moved.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MR: You were a pretty big family. Did you all fit in the car? Could you all go together?

HY: Oh, heavens no, heavens no. [Laughs] But you know, our spread, well, let's see. My brother was born in 1913, and Yuka was born in '27, so that's fourteen year spread, you know. So, my oldest brother was a lot, fourteen years older than my youngest sister. So by that time, he could drive, so he, by that time I suppose we had two cars. In fact, I know we had two cars. So my older brothers would be taking off, doing whatever they're doing, farming or playing baseball or whatever, and then my father would have the other car. I was too young to drive, so I walked. But the town of Hood River was small like Rainer, I suppose. You could walk to most places. It wasn't that bad.

MR: There was a lot of fruit to move in Hood River, too.

HY: Oh, yeah.

MR: So how did they sell their fruit?

HY: Well, the Hood River people were very entrepreneurial. In 1903, they had several different farm cooperative organizations to sell. For example, apples was big in those days, and so they'd have an apple cooperative, but they were also starting strawberries, so they had a strawberry cooperative. Eventually in 1913, because of competition and they had Danielson's and Statermund's and several, Duckwall and Pulley, they say, this is no good. They were cutting each other's throat trying to get a little piece of the pie. So many of them amalgamated, these small consortiums amalgamated, and they formed what was called the Apple Growers Association, the AGA. This is in 1913. And in those days for reasons that I don't understand, it's very democratic, you had to be elected by the board of directors of which there were thirteen or fourteen board of directors of the AGA. And the member farmers would apply, this is a cooperative, a marketing farming, a marketing cooperative, selling cooperative. They'd apply to join the cooperative, and depending upon what the rules was, if the majority of the board of directors approved them, they became. So many, many in fact, I would say most of the Japanese farmers, orchardists became members of the Apple Growers Association, and this existed for many, many years. So that's the way they got the fruit. Then the Apple Growers Association got bigger and bigger and bigger, so they made branch offices and canneries and packing houses in places like Pinedale, Pine Grove and Odell and downtown Hood River, and they ran a cannery. They ran a distillery. They even had, well, they made alcohol, booze, made vodka, in fact, pear vodka, so it became pretty big. Eventually, they changed the name. It was the same company, but they changed the name to Diamond Fruit Growers, and that still exists today. But the genesis was actually 1903, but then it changed in 1913. And from then on, it's taken off and still is in business. So that's how they, and then of course, the fruit were mainly, in the beginning, it was mainly moved from the railroad. But then later on, they had trucks that hauled. And then the farmers themselves would haul their pears and apples and cherries to the canneries or the packing houses individually on their own. They didn't pay out for that.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MR: As the '30s progressed, Japan was invading China, and did the Issei community follow that?

HY: Oh, well, I'm not sure I understand.

MR: In the news, if they were able to read the paper, the Japanese were invading China. Were the Issei aware of that? Did they talk about it much?

HY: Oh, yeah. They were very aware of that. Probably the best evidence that they were aware of it is the thing they call imonbukuro. Iminbkuro is, I don't the literal translation, but the way I translate it is called a comfort bag. And what it was was the Japanese community, many, many places, would make collections of small items for like tobacco, chewing gum, writing pencils and pens, erasers, candy, little card game, packets of cards, and so on, shaving equipment, shaving cream, razors, and so on and put them in little cloth bags, about this big, this wide, and they'd send it to central shipping port. In this case from Hood River, we'd send it to the Portland Japanese Association. And then this is beginning from about 1937 which is when the Japanese war began. From about that time, the Japanese community would collect these bags and send them to the wounded soldiers or the widowed people in Japan. They'd actually directly mail them. Not only that, in the bigger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Japanese people took up collections to buy airplanes, war planes, and war bonds, so these things did happen. But then put this in context. Remember the Japanese are Japanese. They're not American citizens because they cannot be. What would you expect people to do who can't be American citizens? You expect them to say, well, no, we're, some of them did. People, Japanese, these are ethnic Japanese from Japan who didn't, were the Japanese communists, and there was a very, very tiny but a very determined strong body of Japanese communists in the United States. In those days, communists were looked upon with great, great distaste, cordially distrusted and hated by almost everybody. But the Japanese communists were just adamantly against the Japanese government. This is their own government remember now. And some of them taken back to Japan were executed later on, and I know some stories about those people. But it did happen, and so it was not a monolithic thing. The Japanese communists in the United States were against the war with China, they were against this, any type of war and any type of capitalism, so you have that. But on the other hand, you have the far vast greater majority of the Japanese people. Now mainly the Issei, but because they are our, the Issei are our parents, of course, we sympathize, and of course, we did what they wanted us to do. We're not going to fight our own parents. So if the Issei says, "Hey, we should be supporting Japan." After all, they're fighting a national war in China to better the lives of the Chinese, all government say they're going to better somebody's lives, Japanese are no different. They are going to better the Chinese lives. Manchuria, same thing. They're going to better the Manchurian, all that baloney. So anyway, the Japanese did that in the United States, raise money and bought airplanes. They bought war bonds. But the main thing that I know of and I know it happened in Hood River because I happened to have one of these bags still after seventy years, this is the imonbukuro, and it says on there, Oregon-shu, state of Oregon, and it comes from Hood River. "Furoriba," yeah, very, very rare item, but I have one.

MR: As the world became more engulfed in war, did some of that support turn to apprehension? Did the people think that it could go the other way?

HY: Oh, wait a minute.

MR: Well, that they could, as Japan became more aggressive and as the world became more engulfed in war, did the Issei develop any apprehensions about that?

HY: Oh, I'm sure there were considerable apprehensions. But you know, in Hood River, I don't know exactly how that happened because Hood River didn't have a big powerful Japanese Association like Portland did, plus all the other Japanese organizations. What we had mainly in Hood River was the Japanese Methodist church and what they call the kyori kyokai which was a kind of a welfare organization. But I'm sure that as the news came from Japan that they invaded Indochina, the Vietnam actually is what it was, and they took over French Indochina, Japanese, I would guess, this is strictly a guess, they must have had a mixed feeling of mingled pride and dismay at the same time. Pride in that this backward country of 100 million people, the area of the state of California is taking on the world. Oh my god, they're taking on China, a hundred times bigger, and they got far more people, and they're challenging these kind of countries. So I think that was probably mixed with some pride that hey, we are powerful people. We are Yamato, you know. I think there was that element there, but I also think that, gee, boy, these guys, we're having the world opinion turn against us, and my white guy who comes in my store going, "What is this about you guys and the Japs?" the Chinks, they call them in those days, so, hey, I don't know. I don't hate the Chinks, but I have been asked that in those days. But it was very, very different. It's very different being a minority. You learn a lot of things. But one of them is, hey, nothing is as it seems. But yes, in those days, it was getting kind of antsy, because Japan was getting, really flexing his muscles, and you know, when Yosuke Matsuoka signs the tripartite pact with Germany in 1935, I said, holy cow. Well, I didn't know much about that, but my father knew what these things were, and my father was kind of a pacifist, being a Christian man, church man and all that, he was against this thing. But you know, he's just one man, one grain of sand on the beach, so it didn't make that much difference.

MR: In those days, you were in junior high, high school, how aware were the students about these things, the Nisei students as well as maybe the Caucasian students?

HY: Well, I think that we were pretty aware because I'm thinking back to my junior high school and high school education. We had, I don't know, a social studies class called current events, and there was even a newspaper called Current Events, I think, so that kind of stuff came out. So, our focus at that time wasn't on current events. That was just part of an academic course that we had to do like Algebra and math and so on. You just had to do them. Most people were more interested in things like dances and girls and baseball, basketball, movies, and things like that. But in school, yes, so we knew about these things, these things were happening. But in Hood River, there was no organized action to protest the Japanese invading China or anything like that, not like there would be nowadays. You have all kinds of protest now about anything. But in those days, that didn't happen. Again, we're looking back sixty-some years, so it didn't happen in those days.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

HY: Well, let's talk about Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. My father was at home actually. There's various stories, but my father was at home. And according to the story that my younger sister Yuka tells, she was listening to the radio, and he heard this news flash, "Flash, Japs attack, bomb Pearl Harbor." So she called my father to the radio, and he listened to it, and he said, "My gosh, Japan and America are at war." So he puts on his coat and he, I don't know why he didn't drive the car, but the Japanese community hall was about, located about two miles from our home in Hood River. So he put on his coat, put on his hat, and he ran towards the church because the church was having some sort of a program or rehearsal on December 7th because I think, I'm not positive, it had something to do with the Christmas program because not only was this a Japanese community hall, but it was also the Japanese Methodist church, so I think they were getting ready for the Christmas pageant or something. So my father ran to the church, and he told the people the news because they had no radio at the church, and he told them, "Well, we all better get home. It's going to look pretty bad when there's a hundred of us people gathered here, it may seem like a conspiracy or something," so he advised everybody to disband. And meanwhile, he hustled back to home. And as I told you earlier, Margaret, I was playing sandlot football with my cronies right about a block away, and he saw me up there, so he motioned me for me to come home, so I did. And then when we got in the house, he closed the door, and he says, "We're at war. Japan had to attack the United States at Pearl Harbor. We're at war, so we're going to be in very difficult situations, so be careful." So that's the first time I heard of anything about the attack. Now, the question is, well, how did the people in the hinterlands, Oak Grove, Pine Grove, and so on, Parkdale, hear about the war? I suppose partly the same way, through the radio, because a lot of people had radios whether they were country folks or not. But more than that, they also had newspapers. And although the newspapers in Hood River is only sent once a week and that was not on a Sunday, I think it must have been telephoned, word of mouth, that most people got this information or the radio. So many of the Japanese people -- now remember in Hood River, there were about approximately ninety Japanese families scattered throughout the length and breadth of Hood River -- so not all of them knew at one time what happened. But they soon found out thereafter because then, the newspapers, particularly daily papers like the Portland Oregonian and the Portland Journal had big banner headlines that tells all about it.

So after Pearl Harbor happened, of course, the United States government was kind of prepared for that, and lots of people think that the imprisonment, incarceration, and the arrest of these thousands of first generation Japanese like the Issei and the first generation alien Germans and the first generation alien Italians was a kind of spur of the moment thing, and I contend and there are many books that says that that's not so, particularly in the case of Japanese Americans. There were plans afoot already as early as 1935 to document which Japanese, and when I say Japanese, I advisedly say that not only the Issei aliens, but also Nisei who were American citizens were also put under suspicion as early as 1935. And yet even earlier than that, in the 1920s when President Roosevelt was the Secretary of Navy, he had stated that being on record as that, saying that whenever a Japanese war vessel comes to visit the coast San Francisco, Seattle, Pearl Harbor, a list should be made of all the Japanese who go down to meet these training ships, the naval training ships, take down their names, so in case of trouble, they'll be the first to be put in concentration camps. This is in the '20s, late '20s. And then 1935, it's a matter of record, publish, not published record, well, it is published record. In 1937, in Hood River, my own hometown, my own home county, in 1937, I believe very strongly that the then sheriff of Hood River county with the collusion and the assistance or maybe at the request of the FBI, set up a spy network. The spy network was not Japanese. They were Caucasian white eye. And what happened is that the sheriff's department asked people who were friends or acquaintances or especially neighbors of Japanese farmers to keep an eye on them and on their activity. This is documented by a record that was kept by the sheriff's department. This is 1937, so, you know, four years before Pearl Harbor ever happened, there was suspicion on the Japanese and the Japanese Americans, citizens like me, for whatever reason, probably political, but for whatever reason. So the shock and the surprise was not all that much of a shock and surprise to the authorities. What was surprising was that most of the people didn't know this. But the government officials, the high military echelon people, they knew it, the FBI knew these sort of things were going on, but they didn't let the common populous know.

So anyway, when Pearl Harbor happened, the FBI immediately pounced down and within a matter of days, within a week or two on over 1500 Issei -- Issei are the first generation men -- almost exclusively was men, although fifty women were also rounded up in that first roundup. My father also, Matsuo Yasui, fell within that purview because he was picked up five days after Pearl Harbor on December 12th, which was a Friday, and of course, that's a school day. So when Yuka and I, the only two Yasui children left at home came home, my father was gone. And so we asked Mother, "Where's Dad?" She says, "Junsa totta," the police took him away. And the police came in the way of FBI but with the police department, the sheriff's department in Hood River, and so where is he? We didn't know. So what happened, and this was routine. The FBI or the law enforcement people didn't tell anybody where they were taking them or how long they're going to be nor the charge. It turned out that my brother had to ask the Hood River police department where my father, sheriff's department, where my father was taken, and that's how he learned he was taken to Multnomah County jail in Portland, and we had no idea. But my father knew that something bad was going to happen because immediately after Pearl Harbor, even on December 7th and on December 8th, most assuredly, he knew that many of his cronies in Portland were being picked up because the magic of the telephone, and the grapevine was very active. And you know, somebody would say, "Hey, do you know Tomihiro-san got picked up and Takeoka-san got picked up and Tanaka, Dr. Tanaka got picked up?" So my father said, oh, it's only going to be a matter of time when he's picked up, because the reason for that is because he's a very prominent Japanese American, Japanese citizen in Hood River, and he was a leader of the community, so he knew the axe was going to fall. Therefore, he did have a little suitcase handy with a change of clothes and toothbrush and his razor and so on, so it was there ready to go. And when the cops came, all he had to do is pick that up. There's all kinds of stories saying that the FBI descended -- and it may have been true on particularly on December 7th -- and they came and they arrested them, and the men had to go with whatever they had on. I can believe those stories. But anyway, during the course of the entire war, over 5000 Issei men, women, men and a few women as I say were picked up as potentially dangerous enemy alien. And the reason that was done so efficiently was before the war, there was a what, the so-called ABC list which was the high category list that was developed conjointly with the FBI and the army to categorize the people who must be picked up immediately as security risk, and then those who were leaders of the community, and then that's the C list, B list, and then the C list was even less critical group. But they did have this list, and the, after Pearl Harbor in this roundup, they picked up almost everybody on this ABC list which was developed well before the war. So it was not a shock and a surprise to the authorities. It was a shock and a surprise to the common people, yes, but not to the authorities. They knew something was going to happen or might happen, and in that case, they had contingency plan. So that was the way it happened.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

HY: So when Pearl Harbor happened to the population of ours, I mean it was like 9/11, this bombing the World Trade Center. I mean it was a shock and an insult and a horror to the whole nation. So of course, the reaction was very severe. So you know, and there's all kinds of rumors flying about that time. Some of the most vicious rumors and they were totally unfounded was that the Japs had spies in there, like the Jap sugarcane farmers and the guys were raising pineapples. They cut arrows in the sugarcane fields, pointed at Hickam Field. And then somebody pointed out, hey, somebody on an airplane two, three thousand feet up is going to look for a sugarcane, I mean, arrows cut in sugarcane fields when they can't find something as big as Pearl Harbor. That's ridiculous, and it is ridiculous. But those are the kind of rife and crazy, unbelievable rumors that are being spread, and some of the people who spread that were highly, highly responsible people. For example, the Secretary of the War was William Knox. Secretary of, not war, Secretary of the Navy was William Knox. He goes over there and he investigates, spends a day or two, whatever, interviewing General Short and Admiral Kimmel and so on, and he comes back and makes the report to the nation that one of the most effective episodes, pieces of espionage with the possible exception of Norway was in Pearl Harbor at Hawaii. The Japanese had successfully infiltrated and performed this activity, totally untrue, not documented, but here is the Secretary of the Navy saying that. That's just like Rumsfeld telling us something today. We're not going to believe this guy? That's the Secretary of the Navy. Another person who said that, this was a little bit later on, but everybody heard of the famous Earl Warren. He was the governor general of California at that time when Pearl Harbor happened, later became elected governor of California, later became an internationally famous Supreme Court justice of the United States. This man said that the very fact that there's no act of espionage or sabotage committed -- this is in February of '42 -- there's no evidence of espionage or sabotage is committed, is convincing, and disturbing proof that it is going to happen, and this he targeted the Japanese. Something totally unprovable in his opinion is going to happen. People are going to listen to Earl Warren. He's attorney general of the California. People listened to Walter Lippmann. My god, here's a world famous, at least nationally famous columnist, very, very influential, and he's telling the Japs have no right to protest their violation of their civil rights on the battlefield, and the Western Defense Command is technically a battlefield, so let them take their complaints elsewhere, inland and complain about it. Walter Lippmann, Secretary Knox, governor, no, Attorney General Warren. So no wonder the people, 160 million people says, "God, our President says the same, our governor says the same. All the high powered people, the people who should know, the Secretary of the Navy, says these things. We got to believe them."

So today it's like patriotism. Today you got to believe the patriotism, but I say not so. You don't got to believe them. It's very wise for you to think about what they're saying because there were other evidences that these things really weren't happening, but hysteria was so rampant in those days like it kind of is today, and say, if you're not for me, you're against me. You know, that kind of baloney, it was, I mean, multiplied by ten during the war. So consequently, here we get a racist commander of the Western Defense Command in the form of Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, and he says, "A Jap is a Jap no matter how many generations have been in this United States, still, their racial bloods are undiluted, and a viper is a viper wherever it is hatched and so on." So he says, "We got to get them out. I don't want them in my territory." Western Defense Command initially was California, all of California, all of, the western half of Oregon, western half of Washington, all of Alaska. Later, it was expanded to include Arizona, southern part of Arizona and Utah and Idaho and I think Montana, so it was huge. This is the guy, he is absolute like a military dictator. So he in collusion with I think Allen Gullion who was a provost marshal general at that time, they maybe, not the terms, correct terms, not collusion, but they decided with the help of an attorney named Karl Bendetson, that the Japanese had to get out of here. And the way they got around the civil rights objection because you can't move American citizens with impunity for lots of reasons. What they did, they made an end run, and they had the President declare, submit an executive order, and that's how they got around the constitutional safeguards. So the Executive Order 9066 was issued by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. And what it said essentially is that anybody could be removed from a militarily restricted area, and they can be prevented from coming back. They can be prevented from leaving, or they could be excluded completely. It did not say Japanese, Japanese Americans, it said anybody, and that anybody was up, left to the discretion of the War Department who delegated -- this is Stimson -- delegated his responsibility to General DeWitt. And DeWitt saw fit to that that he didn't want any alien, German alien, Italian alien, Japanese, and anybody of Japanese ancestry in the Western Defense Command as defined by those three states, and so he issued this order. And that's how that came about because of the end run. And whether you believe that President Roosevelt was doing every for the good of his country or whether he had a little bit of racism involved in him or not, the fact is that it was everything flowed from Executive Order 9066, and that was the direct responsibility of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. So if he hadn't issued that, there probably would not have been an evacuation, so I have to hold him responsible whether he did that out of, with compassion for the Japanese American who might suffer, I don't know, but he did it, so he has to bear the responsibility for having done it. So that's how the evacuation came about because of this order.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

HY: Now, during the evacuation and a little bit before that, there were three, at least, well, there were actually four cases that challenged the legality of that. The challenge arose because these were new orders, promulgations of military orders by General DeWitt, but the military orders were backed up by a civilian law, Public Law 77503 which 77th Congress passed to put teeth in DeWitt's order. So in case somebody refused to be evacuated, there was this Public Law 503 that said anybody found guilty of this, violating this law is guilty of a misdemeanor, not a felony, a misdemeanor and can be subject to imprisonment for a year plus a $5,000 fine or both. Okay. In March 28, 1942, my brother Minoru Yasui challenged this curfew law. Now there were several different orders, but one of them that he challenged was the curfew order which said that no person of Japanese ancestry, no person who is an Italian alien, or no person who's a German alien, can be outside of his place of domicile, his residence, from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. in the morning. Furthermore, he cannot travel further than the radius of five miles from his own home without special military permission. Furthermore, he cannot meet with more than X number of people. My brother said that was unconstitutional because it applied to American citizens, unilaterally, discriminatorily, specifically the Japanese Americans and nobody else, so he says, "That's not right. You can't do it." So anyway, he challenged it; he lost. He went all the way to the Supreme Court; he lost. Korematsu challenged the curfew, the evacuation. He was in San Leandro. He challenged it. He says, "They can't take me. I'm an American citizen." Well, guess what. They did take him, and he did lose. Okay. Gordon Hirabayashi says, "Hey, well, yeah. They can't do this to me. I'm an American citizen. They can't take me away just because I'm Japanese; and furthermore, I'm not going to obey this curfew law," so he lost on both of them. He disobeyed the curfew law, and he disobeyed the evacuation law. He lost too. The only one who won, and this case was also filed in 1942, was Mitsuye Endo, and she filed her case, and this is a habeas corpus proceeding in which she said, habeas corpus means "produce the body," says, "You can't keep an American citizen in a camp without charges, without a trial." This case was decided in December 17, 1944. The other cases were decided much earlier, in 1943. Mitsuye Endo, which was the seminal case in this particular, the Supreme Court decided, yeah, we can't hold them, an admittedly loyal United States citizen, in camp against their will. And so from that day, the next day, December 18th, the army rescinded the evacuation order, and that's when our people became free or were allowed to go back to the West Coast. It didn't happen until January of '45, but that's the only one that was won out of those four primary test cases; the other ones lost.

Until some forty years later, when Korematsu and Hirabayashi and Yasui started the coram nobis proceeding. Coram nobis is a very rarely used procedure in which they contest a previous finding. Now, in order to fit the coram nobis category, one has to be convicted. Number one, they have to have served their sentence. Okay. And then there has to be mitigating circumstances of why they should have a new trial. And their contention, and of course, all of them did serve their sentence. They were all convicted: Korematsu, Hirabayashi, and Yasui. And they said the reason why we want a new trial is because the United States government, the federal government at the highest level suppressed evidence which if the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, had known this, may have resulted in a, would have resulted in a judgment of innocent. And so in all three cases, the federal government conceded. They said yeah, well, we ask that the court's overturn the rule. What they said, not overturn. They said vacate, like it never existed. Well, these men had all served their prison sentence, they all paid their fine if there was any, and so on. So, but this was some forty odd years later, forty-two years later that this happened. So anyway, that's how the evacuation happened and this is where, end up, 112,000, 120,000 people end up in prison camps. And so if they can do that, and this is still, this is still legal. The Constitution has not been violated so far, be by these cases because it was never declared unconstitutional, so it is possible. It is not likely, but it is still possible that people of Middle Eastern descent or Muslim could be incarcerated on the same procedure, particularly if the executive order is issued because that kind of is not exactly a law like the law that Congress makes. So the precedent is still there, and it's still highly dangerous, and that's why we have to be ever vigilant that these things are not taken out again and again, with all this hurrah and excitement about 9/11 and bombing and terrorism and so on to get out of hand because the same thing happened to us seventy years ago. We cut, put tomato plant caps in fields so that arrows pointed to airfields, and we're going to poison the water supply in Hood River reservoir, the Kingsley River. We drank that water, but boy, we're going to poison that water, and Japanese frogmen were going to swim up the Columbia River dressed as adult salmon to bomb the Bonneville Dam. I mean ridiculous, ludicrous, impossible things to believe. But these stories, they encouraged them, unbelievable. Yeah, very, very interesting, but when I think about this, god, it's just incredible to live through these things and have seen how much the people have changed and yet how much the people haven't changed either because today I see seventy years later, some sort of the same history and some of our newspaper pundits and some of our military people and you know who I am talking about, but they're going through the same ritual. Hey, this is deja vu. I've been here before. I've seen this. I've heard our President speak like this before and so on. Wow, this is highly dangerous. It's very, very touchy grounds, very touchy area that we're living on now, so we have to, if we care at all about our own liberty, boy, we got to help protect the liberty of others. If we don't, we're in big, big trouble.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MR: You could talk about your time at, is it Pinedale Assembly Center?

HY: Well, Pinedale Assembly Center is located five miles south of the Fresno, California. And interesting enough, there was also a camp at Pinedale, another "assembly center." Well, let me back up. Originally, there were fifteen "assembly centers." One of them was the Manzanar Assembly Center which also became a WRA center, War Relocation Authority center. And then the sixteen "assembly centers," they were staging points to funnel, to concentrate the people to put into smaller, not smaller, to less number of concentration camp, that was the WRA centers. So there were ten of those. So the Pinedale Assembly Center was mainly for the Pacific Northwest people, mainly for Oregon. So in Pinedale, the people who came there was from Hood River, Hood River area. This is the, includes the Dalles people and Dallesport people, Mosier people, and all of Hood River. And when I say people, I mean Japanese Americans. But also, there were people from different places because the camp, the single camp in Washington was called "Camp Harmony." I don't know who called it Camp Harmony, but it was in Puyallup. And there were too many people there, so they couldn't take them all to Camp Harmony, so they funneled not all of them, but most of the Japanese from the Tacoma and Fife area into Pinedale, California, also. And almost all of them from the Yakima Valley like Sue Sakai and her family were all funneled into, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I take it back. They went to Portland Assembly Center. But the Vashon Islanders, which is an island in the Puget Sound, they were all sent to Hood River too. So we had a quite a mix of people, and some of them even came from California. I forgot exactly where they were from. Part of them I think were from the Sacramento area. But the Pinedale camp is a pretty small camp. It's an assembly center, holds about five, no, four thousand people. And when we went there, it was about the middle of May in 1942. And when we left Hood River it was a nice climate. You know, it was not hot. It wasn't raining then either, so, but when we got to Pinedale, oh boy, it was hot. It must have been in its hundreds, and you know, Northwesterners are just not used to that kind of temperature. So I remember we got there, one of the earlier arrivals from Hood River, there was about five hundred of us, and I remember when the Tacoma people were bussed in, we went to the train station at Fresno, and then they were bussed to, five miles to the Pinedale Assembly Center. And I remember seeing a lot of the elderly people, particularly women, fainting from the heat because it was hot, and there was no shade. We're standing out in the hot and being processed and signed in and so on.

So that was the beginning of camp life, and it was a disturbing and yet at the same time, a highly exciting time because tremendous stimulus going on. Remember, I'm a seventeen-year old boy. I think I know everything, I got the world by its tail. Of course I don't, but I thought I did. And I said, "Oh, man, look at all these Japanese people," I didn't know how many, but thousands and thousands. They look like me. They got haircuts like me. They look like me. They use accents like me, smell like me. They dress like me. They think like me, and here, we're all put in one place together, hot, hot. And everything is chaotic and a mess. It's dusty, and it's hot, and we're lined up for everything. We're lined up to take a shower, lined up to eat, lined up to get our medical inspections which is practically a farce, and lined up for everything. That was one thing that I'm very impressed, and the other thing was the food terrible. In the beginning because, they weren't, these were army camps. They were built on army construction plans and the barracks and you know, an army is general, in those days is all men, so it was built for men. And of course, men take showers in groups, like ten, fifteen, twenty men in a group in a big shower. Well, you try to put a civilian population in the same situation in all ages, from two-year old girls to ninety-year old grandmas all taking a shower in a big, big old room. That didn't work very good. But in Pinedale, it was interesting because although they had these big single room showers, they didn't have flush toilets, so we had outhouses.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

HY: This is, when I was there and I signed up after a week or so not doing anything, I signed up to be a camp order, hospital orderly. Now, when I say hospital, I don't mean hospital like Portland Adventist Hospital. I mean like a hospital that's built in an infirmary, barracks, and the barracks was about 120 feet long and 20 feet wide, so that was our infirmary, and so I signed up to do to be an orderly. Now you would ask what does an orderly do in a place like that. Well, I'll tell you when I think about that, I don't think I did very much because there wasn't nothing, anything to do. But one of the jobs I had there was delivering milk for the new mothers and babies because we had no hospital that really, no central place to prepare formula for the babies, so it was prepared by the nurse's aides, the young Nisei girls about my age preparing the formula and so on. But one of my jobs was to help deliver the milk at certain stations throughout the camp. And so the driver and a person who was handling the bottles and the checker checking on would drive around these stations. And we'd stop, and we had a sign on our jeep, and the women who had their babies would come out and they'd say, "Well, my name is Nomura. I need one bottle." And the other one would say, "My name is Watanabe. I need two bottles. I have two babies." So they said it in Japanese though because in those days, almost all the mothers were Issei, and most Issei women spoke very poor English. The Nisei mothers were just beginning to have a family. So if they had any, it will be only one or, just very few of them, very few. So of necessity, this crew delivering the milk had to speak Japanese because the mother would say, "Watashi wa Watanabe desu, ichi." So I'd say, I'd look at this, and of course, we had the list at each station, so I says, "Nanchu namae desu ka." Well, nanchu namae desu ka is very terrible Japanese. It means to me, "What is your name please?" Well, that's Okayama-ben. Ben is an accent, see, and that's what I grew up with. I grew up knowing Okayama-ben thinking I was speaking standard Japanese when it wasn't standard Japanese at all. It was colloquial, and it was slang. They can understand me, see, even Tim can understand me, but he knows that it's bad Japanese. I didn't know that, so I thought I speaking hey, great Japanese. Nanchu namae desu ka. Then they say, "Watanabe." They say, "Oh." So after I deliver, did my work and we drove off next station, one of the girls turned around and say, "What did you say? What did you ask those ladies?" "Nanchu namae desu ka, what's your name?" "That's not the way you say that. You supposed to say, "Onamae wa nan desu ka.'" That's the proper way, formal way to say, "What is your name please?" but I didn't know that. You know, I was seventeen, and I didn't know that I was not speaking proper Japanese. And it's all the more surprising because my mother was a junior college graduate. She was a teacher. But at home, I didn't know. My uncle, my aunt, my father spoke Okayama dialect. They didn't speak standard Japanese. Never, we did go to Japanese school and we heard standard Japanese there, but I didn't make the connection that there was a difference. So up until then, I thought hey, I know Japanese. Yeah, I speak it good, but it was colloquial and dialect Japanese.

The other thing in Pinedale, these are personal anecdotes, as I say. I was working as an orderly. I don't know, maybe I got fired from that job because of my Japanese difficulty. But anyway, my next job was a "latrine inspector," quote. Remember, I told you that the latrines were, they were two holers. Women had a two holer, separate from the men's two holer, but they were two holers. And my job was to inspect these things, make sure the flies weren't getting in there and the doors were screened, and also the dump, I think it must have been quick lime. It was a white powder. It was a bucket and a scoop. You'd go in there, lift up the lid, and dump it out, label a cup full of this white powder and go around there. Well, I had to do that to the women's room too, but, so I said, gee. In the beginning, I said, "God that's quite a quandary. I can't sit and wait and see if it's empty." So eventually, I go up there and rap on it, "Dare ka haite imasu ka? Is there someone in there? And about half the time, nobody would answer. "Dare ka haite imasu ka?" No answer. So I'd opened the door [screams]. Some woman would sitting on the pot, and oh, my god. You know, this is like the Keystone Cops, but it actually happened. Oh, my god. Why don't these dumb women say something? It's a man's voice asking if somebody's in there, but they didn't. But even worse than that on the pot was the women's shower because there'd be several of them in the shower. My job in the shower, in those days, they had these foot baths and they had, I don't know, chlorine or something, water. And before you go into the shower, you're supposed to step in the foot bath or chlorine water to, fungus on your toes or something, then you go in the shower. Then when you get out, you reverse the process. Well, my job was to change the chlorine water in there. But in order to do that, I had to get in the shower room, yeah. Go there, "Dare ka oremasu ka? Dare ka haite imasu ka?" No answer. Of course the same, [screams]. That was so funny. [Laughs] I think I got fired from that job too. But that was my experience.

And then, I was there only a short time, and the living conditions were kind of primitive. My older brother Chop, he was pretty active. He was nine years older than me, so he was twenty-six and married, having his first baby already, so he was very active in the Nikkei community. And in those days, they wanted to let the Niseis run things because the Niseis themselves were kind of arrogant, and they said, well it's the Nisei, Issei, our parents' generation got the short end because they didn't speak English, and they didn't become American citizens. Although they couldn't, but they kind of blamed it on the parents because they didn't know any better, and they were country bumpkins. So the Niseis decided probably, mainly unilaterally but with support, that they were going to take over the administrative functions. So my brother became a leader in the camp, and he'd be one of the big shot in the camp administration. But remember, this camp administration had another layer which were the white administrators, and they are the ones that call the shot. So, but anyway, my brother would frequently be an emcee at these talent shows which is held on a big outdoor stage. And you know, in the summertime, when the sun goes down and temperature cools, it was really nice. The stars would come out. There were brilliant stars in the sky. It's black on the south side because we're, there's no light pollution in this, because we're out in the middle of nowhere, and so they'd have the stage lights and so on. They'd have the little Nisei girls get out and sing "Shinano Yoru," "Shanghai Hanauri Musume," lots of Japanese songs. No marshal there. I don't remember hearing a "Aikoku Koshin Kyoku" which is a military naval air, very good song. But, then they'd have tap dancing. Then they'd have other girls sing "Sleepy Lagoon" or "Tangerine." I could still remember those songs. I remember these. You know, this is almost seventy years. This is sixty years ago, and I remember those things, "Tangerine." I can still remember the words. I never can sing it, but I know the words to it. Hey, those are the things I remember.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

HY: I don't remember the tough parts of life in camp so much except for one episode which I still think about every now and then. That's from when my friend Kazuo and I forgot his last name, but we were same age and we were both camp orderlies. We went to watch a softball game in the daytime. And during, we're standing along third base line. As we're watching the batter, he swung and he missed on his third strike, but he released the bat when he missed his third strike. The bat flew through the air and hit Kazuo in the belly, end on. Of course, Kazuo [grunts], but he didn't pass out or anything, so he seemed to be all right. That night, he got sick. And then when they brought him to the infirmary to check him out, they found out he's anemic, so we said, "Oh, wait a minute, this boy's in serious trouble. He's hurting and he's sick and he's anemic." So they took him to the camp hospital. This kid needs a transfusion. They didn't know what was wrong. He needs a transfusion. So they took several of us volunteer orderlies to see if we can get type across to give him a transfusion. I didn't match him. But he did get a transfusion, but he was taken five miles away to the Fresno Hospital, and there he died. He should have been operated on. Now, I know as a surgeon later on that without any doubt in my mind whatsoever, this boy had a ruptured spleen. That bat hit him right in his belly. It broke his spleen. In those days, the treatment was to remove the spleen, operate. But maybe at Fresno General Hospital, they didn't have surgeons capable of doing that. I don't know. But the thing is he was not operated on. They did transfusion, but that wasn't enough because he bled to death. I'm morally convinced that he died of a ruptured spleen. His life could have been saved. He was a seventeen-year old boy just like me, an orderly just like me, but he died because of circumstances beyond his control. I remember that. Also, I remember that's the first Buddhist funeral I ever went to, and it was held in the barracks, and a Buddhist funeral, traditionally you do oshoko. That's the pinch incense burning. That's the first time I remember that, and I still remember going to Kazuo's funeral in the camp and how he died. That was a bad one.

So there weren't a lot of bad things. I made a lot of friends there. And generally speaking, it depends upon who you talk to, but a lot of camp internees now will tell you how terrible it was, and the food was bad and it was. No privacy; it was dusty, the sanitation was terrible. But by the same, at the same token, it was also, remember these people are people and they're just hugely adaptable, so we survived. We got along. It wasn't all fun, but there was fun times there, great times, you know. Like I remember the camp dances and the, not the variety shows. I didn't even think in those days about the deprivation of my liberty because, of course, that's primary. But, in those days, I didn't even think about it. I kind of figured, well, maybe I deserved it. I didn't know any better. I said, "Oh, maybe it's me because I did something bad." At least I was born on the wrong parents, so maybe I did something bad and so okay, so be it. So I didn't then really think about it. Now I contend to this day that most Nisei my age who says it was terrible, horrible, food was terrible, and so forth, they're telling you basically the truth, but what they aren't telling you is there were good times too. And see one has to be real careful about that because there were people like Lillian Baker who was a nemesis of the Nisei who says, "The Japs had a great time in camp. They were fed. They were paid. They were clothed. They got money," and so on and so on and so on. She neglects to say that we couldn't vote, we couldn't assemble, we couldn't do what we want to do, we couldn't go into town, we couldn't buy this, that or the other thing. She says we had fun, and that's true, but she focuses only on the fun. The other side of the coin is the Nisei will tell you that was all terrible. It was awful, terrible, because that's not true either. Somewhere in between, mainly on the bad side, but there were good times there too. There had to be. We wouldn't have never, even prisoners in camp who serve life prison sentence, they don't say it's all bad. They had some good times. So you have to keep these things in context. If you ever hear a story from a Nisei or from anybody of Japanese ancestry who knows something about the story, if they ever tell you that it is all bad, don't believe them. It's not true.

MR: Who's Lillian Baker? Who is Lillian Baker?

HY: Oh, Lillian Baker was a very interesting character. She was a kind of a quasi-writer. She was a hat pin collector for one thing. She collected hat pins, and she had a column of her own. Then she formed an organization called AH, AHA, Americans for Historical Accuracy. And she said that "these Japs that are trying for redress are lying." They were not interned and technically, she's right because most of us were not, quote, "interned." We were incarcerated, imprisoned, or whatever you want to call it. So she said that these guys are trying to take the government, they were as disloyal now as they were at Pearl Harbor, and so they don't deserve a cent. That was Lillian Baker, she formed this organization who fought the redress campaign tooth and nail. She's dead now, and she donated all her papers to, I think, the Hoover Library at Stanford, but she had many, many documents. The sad part about, to me, Lillian Baker's campaign to discredit the Japanese and Japanese Americans by saying that this camps are perfectly justified, and the Japanese never suffered at all is because there were people of Japanese ancestry who aided Lillian Baker who were in the camp. I says, "Good god, how could they do such a thing." But there were people who aided Lillian Baker and gave testimony to the fact backing up Lillian Baker who were rabidly anti-redress, and I said, man, this woman was a real thorn in our side. As I say, she's dead. But the interesting, another interesting thing is she also had a, I don't know if you'd call it a first lieutenant. She was a shite woman who was, went with her husband to the camp in Amache, Colorado. And this woman says, oh, sure, we were allowed, the camp people were allowed to go into Amache whenever they wanted to, Granada, I'm sorry and do the shopping. They're free to come and go any time they please. What she didn't say, she's a white woman, so she could, but nobody else could do that, so she aided Lillian Baker. For why they did these sort of things, I don't know, but I do know the names of a few of these people that did that. My god, they did this. So, when I get disgusted at people who will help propagate these falsehoods, can you imagine how people who are anti-JACL would get disgusted at JACL when they hear stories about how JACL were sycophants, and they went along with whatever the federal government says; yes, god, yes, master, we'll do whatever you want, very, very complex things. And today, there's considerable animosity towards JACL; although, I think as the Nisei generation dies out, and we're nearly dead now, there probably would be just stories left now. Some of these things are documented. But the wartime evacuation and the Japanese American was such a monumental mistake, and we're still struggling with the aftermath of that because here we're, we're still struggling with the Muslims and Asian, the Middle Eastern Arab Americans in this country, you know. If they're wearing one of these head coverings and all, they're different. Even though that some of the blacks were born and reared in this country and they convert to Muslims, oh man. We have still a lot to learn yet.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MR: How did the whole experience of internment and incarceration affect the outlook and the mental well-being of the generation, the Nisei generation?

HY: Well, Margaret, from a purely private perspective, my own opinion, nobody else's, I say this: I think that the war, the evacuation experience and the prejudice before, especially during, and to some quite an extent after the war, colored my observations upon how much the people of the United States dislike the Japanese, distrusted the Japanese, and by Japanese, I'm referring to the people of Japanese ancestry in the United States. So to that extent, it is affected the Issei generation, my parents' generation. It affected all of the Nisei generation, my own generation, and to a much lesser extent, the third generation, the Sansei generation, to the point that we're all very, very cautious. I think that not the Issei but the Nisei generation, my generation, are all warped. By warped, I mean that we have been conditioned by being looked upon as second class-type people, less than desirable, not the A group, but the people who are less, little bit less than adequate, so we are insecure. We are warped in thinking that hey, other people don't think that we're as good as they are, so we're always a little bit defensive on this thing. And so feeling that way, we're much, much, much too reactive to things. For what people think and say and do towards us, we will react to that, but we will not come out and be proactive, make a positive contribution in a discussion, for example, and try to lead something because we know that as the Japanese say the malelistic side gets hammered down. So we know that from our experience from before the war and during the war and after the war. If you stick out, you're going to get hammered down. I mean there's an innumerable past example which for me is a truism. So I say that all Japanese Americans, particularly the Nisei generation, have been affected to the extent that they're extremely cautious, overly cautious, overly conservative, because their past experiences colored everything that they're going to do in the future. That's why you don't find too many people who are out there, proactive in advocating things. They will follow along, and they will work in groups, but you'll find very, very few who are going to be out there and being a leader. So to this day, I think that's very true. Now there are my peers who say, "Homer, you're crazy. We're not all that paranoid, and we're not that warped. We're just as normal as anybody else." I says, "No, we're not. We're warped. We are less than the average American mentally." And psychologically, we are much, we are less. And I don't know who diminished us, but we are diminished. That's what I say. Now what can be done about it, I don't think anything can be done about it. I think time will take care of that problem. And of course, there are Sansei now who are coming in. And you know the Sansei, some of them are in their sixties, and they are much more proactive than the Nisei generation. You talk to almost any Nisei, and most of them are not going to get up and wave some flags and, say, make speeches and so on. Most of them won't do that. Quite a few Sansei will now. Some of them will even get obnoxious and aggressive about it. And I expect that, eventually, as the Yonsei, fourth generation, the Gosei, their children get born, because of the intermarriages, they are going to become more vocal or else they're going to submerge. They're going to completely deny their ethnicity or partial ethnicity, be it a quarter or an eighth or one-sixteenth Japanese. That's either going to go that way or else they're going to become more obvious and up front about it. But today, with the Nisei generation, we are still a quiet people. We don't like to have attention drawn to us. We are warped, period.

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