Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Nakata Interview
Narrator: George Nakata
Interviewer: Masako Hinatsu
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: August 23, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ngeorge_2-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

MH: This is an interview with George Yoshio Nakata, a Nisei man, seventy years old who lives in Portland, Oregon, on August 23, 2004, at his home. The interviewer is Misako Hinatsu of the Oral History Project, Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. George, tell us when you were born and where?

GN: Well, I was born in Portland, Oregon, around Nihonmachi, delivered by Doctor Tanaka, assisted by a midwife in 1934, January 19th, to be specific, and I was the youngest of four children, and my older brother was Kikuo, known as Kay living currently in the Gateway area. My sister Michiko was next. We call her May, and unfortunately, she passed on two years ago. And just above me is Sumiko, Mary, two years, my elder and currently living in Hillsboro, so product of Nihonmachi, 1930s.


MH: What was your father's name and your mother's name, and what did they do?

GN: My father was Shigeu Nakata and my mother's former Kane Yamamoto. My father in the early 1990s, 1900s rather came from Okayama to Oregon and settled in Portland together with his grandparents. The grandparents shortly thereafter returned back to Japan, and my father continued on first working for the railroad. He then returned back to Okayama. He actually resided in a rural area, and my mother was just starting her teaching career in Okayama-shi, the city. They got married and returned back here to Portland and settled in downtown Northwest Portland having a hotel called the Pomona Hotel. My father managed that business for quite some years until the outbreak of World War II. But simultaneous to that, he together with Josuke Nakata out on Columbia Boulevard, opened a fruit and vegetable stand. And several years thereafter, in the mid-1930s, they opened up a second Nakata Brothers number two vegetable stand also on Columbia Boulevard. So in effect, my father and mother operated the hotel, which mostly my mother made the beds and tended to the office, and my father concentrated on the Nakata Brothers Fruit and Vegetable Stand out on Columbia Boulevard. So actually, he was in two different businesses for quite some years preceding World War II.

MH: Can you remember what that, what those stands were like in Columbia Slough?

GN: The Nakata Brothers Fruit and Vegetable Stand was one of the larger ones out in that area. There were quite a number of five, seven, eight different vegetable stands up and down that short stretch on Columbia Boulevard. It was a wooden structure. It was filled with shelves, crates of fruits, peaches, apples, oranges, bananas, everything, plums, cherries, depending on the season. And adjacent to that, they had a stand of flower products, potted plants mainly. So it was a fairly sizeable operation and Josuke Nakata, who had four sons, Alfred, Albert, Harry, and Frank, had on their property row crops, so they grew their on cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, a lot of vegetables that they actually, they sold at the fruit and vegetable stand. We would have the opportunity to go out there on some weekends and simply play around. I was at a young age. I remember the barn. I remember the horse named Baby. I remember the dog that they had. I remember Albert Nakata practicing his piano lessons out there, but I remember going actually to the stand. A lot of the workers there, it was their summertime job, and many of them had come up to me later and said, "I used to work for your father out on Columbia Boulevard. It was my summertime job." And a lot of them told me that as a very young child of five or six or seven years old, I used to run around out there and throw peaches around and get into a lot of mischief. But I also remember in the back, they had a tent, and they would be wiping and cleaning tomatoes. My dad would be sometimes back there. He was rather clever as an artist really, and he would be the one that make most of the signs, how much peaches were by the crate or how much strawberries were by the halic. So it was kind of an interesting certainly not a modern supermarket by any means. But in the 1930s, a lot of Portland people used to venture out to Columbia Boulevard. It was during the period when there were no, quote, "farmer's markets" in downtown Portland or Beaverton, Hillsboro, or Milwaukie. So in order to get really fresh produce then, they would venture out to Columbia Boulevard and go to one of the Issei/Nisei fruit and vegetable stands. So there were many summer days that we would spend out there particularly during the summer and even during the winter days during the weekends.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MH: What was your experience in Nihonmachi as you were growing up?

GN: Well, Nihonmachi was really our world. For a lot of us younger children that grew up in and around Nihonmachi, we were not used to traveling out of Nihonmachi. It was rather uncommon or rare to go on the east side or maybe have a trip if you will to Washington Park or to go to a downtown movie theater to the Blue Mouse Theater. Rather, most of our time was really spent in Nihonmachi, and our hotel, the Pomona Hotel, was located on Second and Burnside. But I recall very clearly, although it's quite a while ago now, many decades ago, Nihonmachi was full of stores, shops, hotels run by Japanese, fish markets, bath houses, restaurants. I remember the Sakano Jewelry Store, place that I received the greatest Christmas gift which was a Mickey Mouse watch from that store that I used to admire when I used to walk by it hardly tall enough to even look in the window, always admired that Mickey Mouse watch, and run by Mr. Sakano. Later on, he married, of course, Fumi Marumoto who became Fumi Sakano. And a couple doors would be the Furuya which was the manju, senbei shop, and the aroma that used to come out of there. We were not able to buy such treats and snacks often, so it was kind of a special occasion to go to Fugetsu, buy some manju, some senbei, bring it home. But as you walk down Nihonmachi, you're kind of taken by everything from the Star Fish Market to the Teikoku Mercantile Company below the Teikoku Hotel, the Oshu Shimpo down Second Avenue operated by the Oyama family at that time, the judo, the kendo places. I remember my father parking his Ford pickup at Akagi's Garage about three blocks away from our hotel, and everybody had to back their car into their stall. It was not a large garage, but I remember well. My father used to brag about being able to put his pickup when there's only two or three inches to spare on each side. In fact, he would park it so close that we'd have to open up the windows to get out of the car oftentimes, so that was something that I recall very clearly. And it was a car of course without the modern amenities. It would start with an iron crank, and he'd go in front of the car and crank the car up to get it started. It would have a clutch. It'd have a lot of things that, the horn had to be in the center of the steering column. But Akagi's Garage was a place that I seemingly went to often.

A block away was Inouye's Bath House which was on the main basement really of the Mikado Hotel, quite an unusual place. I think culturally, the Japanese like to take their relaxing ofuro. And to a lot of Japanese, taking a bath or taking a shower is not simply getting cleaned, but it's relaxing, it's soothing. It's really a period of the day to kind of unwind. And so a lot of people, Nihonmachi people on special occasions would go to the bath house, but mostly railroad people that would come in and simply be looking for going to the bathhouse, soaking, relaxing. And as you would with an ofuro, you really scrub and clean yourself before you step into the actual bath. There'd be a large bath, if you will, for the women, and one for the men. And I didn't go there but a few times, but I remember very well going in there, and there'd be a bunch of men in there, and we'd all be in there together and never think much about it, soak in there for quite a while, and you'd be kind of beet red like an oyster when you come out, but you'd be totally relaxed. So the Inouye Bath House I think was interesting.

There was the S. Ban Company. There was the Furuya Company. We mostly frequented the Matsushima Teikoku Mercantile Company, and Mr. Yasui who was Yoji Matsushima's uncle and the brother of Umata Matsushima, used to call on all the hotels and take orders for the Teikoku Company, and he had a car and used to go out to Gresham and Troutdale, Milwaukie and Hillsboro and deliver things on a weekly basis. But I remember going into Teikoku very often. It was filled with merchandise, hundred bag pounds of rice, Japanese records, judogi, kendo equipment, otsukemomo, can takenoko, kamaboko, books, even had a little liquor there, Japanese sake, Japanese beer. In the back, they'd have a little room, and I believe Mr. Matsushima or Mr. Niguma would contract recent arrivals for jobs to work on the railroad, the SPNS, the Portland Shortline. So Teikoku was more than really just the store. It was kind of a gathering place. It was a nerve center. It was where you sort of learn the gossip of Nihonmachi. It was where you met friends and talked about things. So we would not go in there and simply buy a few things and be out in a few minutes. Rather, I remember my parents, my sisters, we'd go in there and chat with people. I, of course being young, would just wander around, getting into mischief, touching things that I wasn't supposed to touch. But smelling the takuan, smelling the otsukemono, getting the mochi there for New Year's, getting the kinako, getting the shoyu, gave even a young person like myself an early introduction in part to Japanese culture, Japanese food.

So Teikoku was really quite an important part of Nihonmachi. Upstairs was Doctor Tanaka's office. And of course, he after the war moved over to Ontario, but Doctor Tanaka took my tonsils out as he did many of the Nihonmachi kids at that time. Doctor Tayama and Koyama had offices, and they were rather young starting up at that time before the war. There was the Oda Fishing Tackle Store just a couple blocks from the Pomona Hotel. The first time I went in there, I was rather shocked to see all of that at that time, sophisticated fishing gear. I didn't know they had fishing reels and fishing rods because when I went out to the fruit and vegetable stand, Frank or Harry would take me to the local pump house, and we'd go fishing for crappie with just a little stick and a piece of string and a hook and tie a worm on there, and we'd catch some crappie. But I went in there to Oda's Fishing Tackle as a young lad of six or seven years old, and my eyes just about fell out because they had something called a fishing reel and these bamboo rods and these flies that look like bugs, and I never saw such things, so that was kind of an experience. The Star Fish Market was full of fish of all types. I was just, didn't know the names of most of them, but quite a popular place.

So I suppose like many families, we grew up on the fish and rice diet, and our mother would prepare whatever, what would be termed as okazu, and okazu might be a little bit of bacon with beans or maybe cabbage or maybe eggplant or maybe a dash of hamburger in there, but we were quite used to tofu. I can't remember whether it was Kuge or Ota Tofuya that was a few blocks down the street. And Japantown was really kind of our own community. At a young age, I was not familiar with Southwest Portland with the exception of the Blue Mouse Theater and a few things down there. There seemingly was two groups, Japantown, Northwest Portland, and the group of Japanese families that lived in Southwest Portland.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

GN: In Northwest Portland, we had our own Japanese school. Southwest Portland had their Japanese school, so did Montavilla and so did Columbia Boulevard have their own Japanese school and some of the churches, so I'm guessing that there were a number of Japanese schools that popped up in Portland during the 1930s. I was rather young, but when May and Kay or Michiko, Kikuo, my older brother and sister, Mary, started to go to a Japanese school after their regular school, I wanted to go too, insisted that I go too. So I went a year before I should have, but it was interesting. After, if you were regular school going there at four o'clock in the afternoon, learning a, i, u, e, o, and katakana and hiragana and picking up some kanji characters and figuring out how to in kanji write Nakata and while my mother would explain as an ex-schoolteacher, this means "center" and this means "field" and Yoshio, the kanji character for Yoshio. The "o" of course is the "o" character for otokono "o." So years later, when I was in my professional career going to Japan on trips and I'd see the restroom, I would see the character for otoko, and I'd harken back to when I was four or six years old and my mother telling me that, "That's the kanji for your 'Yoshio,'" so I'd never mistake going into the wrong restroom in Japan, of course. So Japanese school, we used to play jokes on each other. We used to pull the chairs so somebody would fall down, get into mischief. Probably you can say that my sister, May, got ito in her class, two, three years running along with the Ken Kitayama, but it was interesting. That's where we learned "Sakura, sakura saita," you know, and "Saita saita" and "Koishiro koi," learned the story of Momotaro. And upon coming home after learning about Momotaro and being able to read the Momotaro story in katakana, my parents explained to me that Momotaro really started in Okayama where my roots really are. And Okayama, that's where Momotaro grew up, and that's where he came out of the peach, and he got his friend, the monkey and the dog, and they ate kibidango and conquered the dragon, and all that fabled stories and the legend really originated in Okayama. So I learned about Okayama at a fairly early age, although I didn't get to Okayama until later on. So Nihongakkou was an experience of learning, yes, but also learning a little bit about Japan, learning some about my roots.

We used to have undoukai in the summertime when the Southwest Japanese school would compete against the Northwest Japanese school, and competition was very fierce, tug of war and races and three legged races using gunnysacks, and we were small, of course, and we had more simple games. I remember winning a tablet or a pencil. Grand prize might be a box of crayon, but prized possessions for all of us. And the competition would be, the Northwest Japanese school would be red and the Southwest Japanese school would be white, so it would be a competition between red and white, probably from the Japanese flag, but I never thought of it that way. But that kind of hitting the watermelon blindfolded and all of those Japanese competitive games that are even currently enjoyed at undoukai for the shokai group here in Portland, we had a taste of that during our early childhood.

So as one reflects back on Nihonmachi, it was really our world. It was our community. It was a place that we grew up. Yoji Matsushima and Dick Wasugi and the Matsumoto girls, Alice Ondo now and Jean Matsumoto, we'd be roller skating, we'd be riding our scooters, and we didn't mind. Yet, maybe people can refer to it as skid row, and sure we'd just dodge around the bums and the bummettes down there and try not to bump into them. We'd bunch into fire hydrants. I remember many times that we'd roll off the sidewalk, but we had just the greatest time in Nihonmachi. That was a life that as young as I was, I really could recall that it's almost like yesterday.

And I wanted to interject that we had a dear friend, a friend of the younger people of all Nihonmachi, Southwest and Northwest, and his name was Hojo. He was to us, Hojo-san. Hojo-san delivered the paper to all the hotels, all the laundries, all the restaurants. He knew everybody. Everybody knew Hojo-san, the Onishis, the Okas, all of us, the Uyesugis, everybody knew Hojo-san, and somehow, he became very close to our family, and he'd made his paper route such that the last delivery was to our family, to our hotel, and he'd always stay and oftentimes had dinner with us. And our parents would teach us discipline, not to go with strangers, not to talk to strangers, but if it's Hojo-san, you can go any place with Hojo-san, so we'd take his hand, and we walk around Nihonmachi. He was the one that took us to Washington Park a couple times a year. He was the one that walked us oftentimes down to the Blue Mouse Theater. He was the one that just a few blocks away walked us down to the Willamette River so I can throw rocks into the river. He was the one that just kind of showed us the way, and there's many Nikkei people today that will remember Hojo-san. His full name was Junnosuke Hojo, but we all called him Hojo-san, just the greatest, and he was a good cook. On Thanksgiving, he'd bring over a small turkey and cook turkey dinner for us. And after the war, when he passed on, it was just like I really lost part of the family. He was just so meaningful to us. He was just part of our childhood. So it's hard to talk about Nihonmachi or childhood without mentioning our dear friend Hojo-san.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

GN: So I must say that Nihonmachi played quite a role in our early years, and I guess I'd like to make mention of Saint Paul Miki School. A lot of people in Southwest Portland went to Shattuck School, Faling School. Those in Northwest went to Atkinsons School or Couch School. But in the early 1930s, a lot of the people had an idea that maybe there ought to be a school that some of the Japanese children can go to, and so somehow, they got in contact with Marylhurst College, now Marylhurst University out toward Lake Oswego, and there were some young nuns most willing to teach Japanese children. And so our first school Saint Paul Miki started in a store front on Second and Ankeny Street or Pine Street, so about ten or fifteen or twenty of us gathered there, and two nuns became our teacher. Later on, we moved to a little house on Seventeenth and Northwest Couch. But I still remember fondly Sister Mary Madaliva, Sister Dana, Sister Marilyn, Father Thelin. We had plays. I got to put on a crown one time to be a king of a certain play. We'd bring our own lunches there, sometimes something called sandwich spread, kind of like mayonnaise with relish. That became our sandwich or peanut butter sandwich. And each day, the nuns would give us soup, vegetable soup, chicken noodle, great. But split pea, none of us really cared for, but we toughed it out. Yes, we did learn about Catholicism and about Jesus and about the thirteen steps. We learned about Joseph and Mary. We learned about Nazareth. We learned about Bethlehem. We learned about the crucifixion and the resurrection. And fast forwarding to days later when I traveled to Tel Aviv and to Israel and to see the Sea of Galilee and to see Bethlehem and to be taken into this place that was the very spot where the manger once stood, was indeed a moving moment for me personally because I harken back to the days when I was six or seven years old being taught by nuns at Saint Paul Miki. They had these picture charts, and they told us about Joseph the carpenter and about the other man to the left of Jesus and to the right of Jesus during crucifixion. And all of those things suddenly really came home when I personally was able to go to Nazareth, Bethlehem, and walk the streets where the Christ child really was there. So I really think back to the nuns, and one of the fortunate things as we went to Portland Assembly Center as we went to Minidoka and returned, led by Jean Matsumoto and others, Yoji Matsushima, Dick Uyetsugi, Betty Ishida, Ruth Yamamoto, Alice Ondo now, my sister Mary, Joseph Suzuki, we had a reunion, and we went out to Marylhurst College, and there we met Sister Mary Madaliva and Sister Marilyn, and I was surprised that Sister Mary Madaliva is not that tall. I used to think she was a giant. And the little cross that nuns in their black robe had in front of her, I thought was a huge piece, but it wasn't that huge after all. I used to ask the nuns as a five-year old or a four-year old, I said, "What's inside that cross?" And one nun said, "There's a small piece of wood, and it signifies part of the cross," and that kind of stayed with me. My sister Mary learned every prayer on the rosary. I learned some of it. But that discipline, that learning, that introduction to Christianity if you will, to Jesus, to religion, has stayed I think with every one of us that went to Saint Paul Miki. Yeah, I was young and went there before I was supposed to, and I guess that's why I kind of graduated early from high school, but that's not here nor there. It was an experience of going there at first having nap time, religion time, but learning the three r's. That's where many of us learned reading, writing, and arithmetic was at Saint Paul Miki School. And to come back and again meet and here in the year 2004, two months ago, ninety years plus going out to Marylhurst, having lunch with Sister Mary Madaliva. And because the Catholic changes of twenty-five years ago, they all changed to their original names. So now we call her Sister Gertrude. But to me, she'll always be Sister Mary Madaliva.

So Saint Paul Miki was also a part of Nihonmachi. It was part of our childhood. It was a part of our education. It was part of our growing up, and I think there was a comfort level with the parents. Someone asked me one time, "Why did you go to Catholic school with nuns?" I said, "You know, for the Issei, the parents, there we could learn English. There we could be with other Japanese children. There was safety there, and they provided transportation." There was a little panel bus that used to come around to the hotels and the stores, restaurants, and pick us up and just bring us to 17th and Couch, bring us home again. I'll never forget my Mary, my sister, Mary, one time falling out of the van, didn't get hurt, but she fell out. And later we can laugh about it, but at the time, it seemed like quite an accident, but there was just simply falling out as we came to a sudden stop and the door wasn't quite shut. So we have funny little things. I remember Albert Nakagawa not liking his pea soups, split pea soup, and pouring it into his little lunch box. I remember things that we hated to eat, and other things that we loved to eat. They would provide us little, Nabisco wafers for snacks sometimes, not good for our teeth, but we loved it. We'd sometimes just wait for recess and snack time, so we learned a lot from a nun teachers. I ended up after the war going to Couch School and other schools, mixed schools, diversity schools, but I'll be very and forever thankful of my days really spent with fellow students there at Saint Paul Miki School. So my early years in the Pomona Hotel, Nihonmachi, and Saint Paul Miki were really enjoyable.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

GN: Our hotel by the way was located on Second and Burnside. Not the greatest hotel as I think about it now and transients and, if you will, bums would come in at all hours of the night. On the first floor, they'd get a bed, huge room with about twenty beds, no partitions or anything, for twenty-five cents a night I think it was. And on our floor, there'd be of course a hallway that went all the way around the hotel. My mother would make the beds, but they were not the fanciest of rooms. I remember my father used to have a spray, and he'd kill the bedbugs every now and then, and we'd help Mom sweep the hallway with this little carpet sweeper. So it wasn't the fanciest of hotels, but it was, night clerk was named Adam Manola, and he was a Finnish gentleman, a great friend of ours and remained our friend for all the way through, wrote us letters occasionally while we were in Idaho, Minidoka. Another friend that I had was a Bulgarian gentleman that stayed for years at our Pomona Hotel, and his name was Jimmy Moldenov. Jimmy Moldenov taught me how to play checkers, and at an young age, he taught me a Bulgarian song, and I think I learned that song at the age of four or five. Well, a few years ago, I was in Europe and I happened to sit down, found out that this lady was Bulgarian, and I sang this Japanese, or this Bulgarian song to her, and she completely understood this song. And I kind of amazed myself that I had either the words or enunciations halfway proper so that she could understand my one Bulgarian song that I learned way back in the mid-1930s from one Jimmy Moledenov who stayed at the Pomona Hotel with us.

But we ate a lot of Japanese food there. Our living room was where we spent most of our time. We had a big console radio that we bought just before the war broke out. I think my father spent $100 for that radio, a GE console radio, and we don't have those radios today. It was a radio that stood on the floor, and at four or five years old, it was taller than I was. And I remember when we had to go to the Portland Assembly Center, my father sold that radio to the policemen on the beat for five dollars, and my mother was just crying and weeping, not only that but so many things that she, possessions that we or my family had worked hard for, my father and mother in particular, had saved for and now had to sell at mere pittance just pennies on the dollar. But in our living room, we had a canary, a yellow canary, that used to fly around. They'd open up the door and he'd fly around all the time and sing just something terrific. And after a couple of years, we came back, Mary and I came back from school, and our parents told us the canary had died or flew out, and that was a sad day when we lost our canary. We used to have a tank not only for goldfish but tropical fish that I used to admire, our introduction to angel fish and some of the exotic fishes and how we'd learn that's how you pump air and oxygen into the fish tank and don't overfeed it, and we were good, we'd get to feed it during the day. So our living room was kind of where Mary and I played. My greatest possession was a Lionel train set, had kind of spokes that you put the tracks together in either a big circle or a circle eight or a figure eight, didn't have many cars but had a locomotive, had a couple cars and a caboose, off and on switch. But that Lionel train set was really one of my prize possessions. The other prize possession wasm as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Yasui uncle of Yoji Matsushima, used to come around to take orders. One day, he came over and he brought a gift to me. It was a coin purse, but it was a leather coin purse made like a catcher's mitt, a zipper on it, had these stitchings, really perfectly resembled a catcher's mitt. That was my other prized possession. I kept that with me every day. I brought it to me to the Portland Assembly Center. I brought it with me to Minidoka. And somewhere during the three or three and a half years there, I lost that coin purse. To this day, I often think about that great leather catcher's mitt coin purse that Yasui-san brought over, gave to me as a gift. So we spent many, many hours there in the living room playing. In the meantime, sister Michiko and brother Kikuo, Kay and May, went to Japan to visit grandparents in late 1938 or early 1939, and they stayed there because of the outbreak of the war. So many years from that point forward, Mary and I spent time together, just the two of us. Yes, there were four children, but for the most part, it was just Sumiko, Mary, and myself going to the assembly center, Minidoka, and so forth.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

GN: I do remember a funny incident there at the Pomona Hotel when my father used to go after crawfish. One day, he I guess, it was a great day. He brought home a whole bucket full of crawfish, and for a few minutes, he left it there in the living room. Well, the bucket was full of crawfish. Suddenly, crawfish is crawling out of the bucket and onto the carpet. Mary and I jumped on a chair, the two of us on one chair, and we're looking as more crawdads and crawfish are climbing out of the bucket. Suddenly, there's crawfish all around the living room. We were horrified. Luckily, my parents came back in a few minutes, put all the crawfish back into the bucket. But it's an incident that to this day stays with Mary and me as something we'll probably never ever forget.

So the Pomona Hotel and going on the roof and watching the Rose Festival from there, greatest view, Second and Burnside. The parade comes over the Burnside Bridge. We can see it almost head on. The highlight, of course, was seeing the Japanese float. I remember Fumi Sakano being the queen one time. I remember the Boy Scouts drum and bugle corps. We would look for those, the bugle corps and the Japanese float on the Rose Festival Parade. It was kind of a highlight for us. We'd go up there. We'd have snacks with us. We'd have some refreshments, and we'd just sit there for several hours watching the Rose Festival Parade. Do when we returned from Minidoka, I used to look forward to the Rose Festival Parade. And as the years went on, it kind of lost its appeal and glamour, but for the early days of my childhood and early return, the Rose Festival had a special meaning because I just could close my eyes and picture on the roof of the Pomona Hotel just watching the Rose Festival Parade go by.

So yes, we were close to the Willamette River. We didn't live in luxury. Our biggest treat was Chinese food that my father would order, and Chinese restaurants would deliver to your hotel at that time. A big cardboard box with all kinds of white little cartons with wire handles, and we would have a feast. And the other Nakata Family from Columbia Boulevard would come in and join us, and we'd have a big Chinese dinner, and that was kind of a special treat for us. Around that area of course, Chinese and Japanese lived together amongst ourselves. The Wong Family was right across the street from us. There were these gambling houses that were operated by the Chinese that would have like these little Chinese characters and you block those off with a thick leaded pencil, and we weren't supposed to know about it, but I know some of my Chinese friends were runners for those gambling houses. So there were those 1930 version of the lottery operated by the Chinese at that time in Old Town, Old Town now, Nihonmachi at that time. It was quite a life there. It was really our life, and so many stories of the Moria Family that lived behind us on Third Avenue, and Yachang when he got married and going to the marriage ceremony and learning about Shintoism. And I guess even today, oftentimes, weddings are in Shinto, and seemingly, the funerals are in Buddhist, and it's kind of an usual thing as I think about it now. I never thought about it as a child, but did go to some Shinto weddings. I went to some kendo tournaments, some judo tournaments, ate at some of the restaurants. Mary's Cafe was right down the street. There were families that had restaurants and laundries and so much activity that really was something that we did almost on a day-to-day basis.

In the middle of Nihonmachi was the Maletis Grocery Store that stayed there until the 1980s. It was still there on Third and Couch Street. And as I got older, Mary and I used to go down there to get a carton of milk or a loaf of bread, and our entertainment not going just to movies but roller skating and riding our scooter. And we couldn't go across the Burnside Bridge on our roller skates. We had to stop at the halfway mark and turn back and come around again, and it was kind of uphill for us with a scooter. Not too many people ride scooters these days, but scooters and tricycles and roller skates and I'm talking of the old fashioned roller skates made of steel and iron and with four wheels, not the roller blade, you know, the new millennium type, but the old type of roller skates that you'd have a little key, and you'd have these two devices that you pinch your shoes with so that they won't fall off and have a little strap. So we'd be roller skating along there, Yoji and Alice and Dick Uyesugi, and as I mentioned earlier, we wouldn't wander too far. But as I reflect back on dodging in and around drunk people that had fallen down on Burnside Street or Couch Avenue, we were probably pretty good roller skaters, so it was a lot of fun that we had. And we really didn't know about the war per say, and it was rather sudden that we're pulled out of school, and we're packing our bags and baggage, and we're saying goodbye, and that's a chapter of life that Nihonmachi came, Nihonmachi grew, and I guess Nihonmachi kind of disappeared at that point in time.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MH: Before we get to your story on the assembly center, tell us about what kind of people stayed at your hotel, and what were the rooms like other than the large room that had all those beds in it.

GN: When you came up the flight of stairs to the Pomona Hotel, the first floor, kind of mezzanine first floor, was this huge room, and they were basically all transient people that stayed there just a night or two paying only a few cents, and they'd come in at all hours, and that's why we had Adam Manola as a night clerk because they might come in at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. A lot of them would really stagger up the stairs as I understood it. The upper floor, the second and third floor where we stayed, we had several rooms to our family. Those were more permanent folks like Jimmy Moldenov. They were people that generally didn't have a family. They were mostly bachelors where people that had lost their families, lost their wives. I was too young to explore into their background, but they were mostly men, seemingly old to me, but they were probably in their thirties and forties. They were not really old, relatively old to a young child. They would pay their rent sometimes by the week, sometimes by the month. Their rooms were very simple, had a large bed, had a dresser, had more like a community down the hall bath facilities. It would have a sink with running hot and cold water in the rooms. There would be the steam heater there. So as you enter the room, you'd see a steam heater, you'd see a window, you'd see the dresser, you'd see the sink, you'd see the bed, you'd see a closet, quite simple, not elaborately furnished, but all the requirements, and we had a few, very few what they call at that time housekeeping rooms that had actually a portable stove therein, but very few. Most of the long time tenants would mainly eat outside, or Jimmy and Adam might eat with our family as we became very, very close to them. So mostly, they were older men maybe between jobs. Some of them were gainfully employed I'm sure, and they were sometimes railroad workers in between jobs, mostly good people, hardworking people. On the lower level, the transient people we never got acquainted with. They came up only to pay their rent and by morning, most of them were gone, and a new group of folks would come in to the hotel. And I think that Japanese didn't own the building ever, but they operated the hotel business. And so whether it was the Globe Hotel or the Ray Hotel, the Pomona Hotel, the Teikoku Hotel, I believe that in the Southwest sector of Portland or the Northwest sector of Portland, they were all similar. They were all mostly transient people, very few housekeeping rooms, mostly men, mostly bachelors, mostly folks without children, without wives, without families that stayed in those hotels.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MH: I'm kind of interested. You know, when you gathered for dinner, did your parents speak Japanese? Did you have a certain place to sit at the table, anything like that?

GN: We always sat in the same chair, and we had these sort of, they don't have them anymore, these oil cloths, this linoleum oil cloth that you put over the table, easy to wipe up as we spill things. My father worked long hours, but he tried very hard to come home for dinner. Mind you, he really had two jobs. But for his Columbia River Fruit and Vegetable Stand, he left by 3:30 or 4 o'clock in the morning to go to the marketplace to pick up different things and make two trips before the stand opened, so he got up early every morning. And in the midafternoon, he'd take about an hour nap in a tent behind the fruit and vegetable stand, but he would do his best to come home for dinner. So on most cases, he would be home. And because of Japanese school and other reasons, we would eat around 6, 6:30, 7. And as I grew older, of course, Kikuo and Michiko left for Japan, and so there were just the four of us. Most of our conversation was entirely in Japanese. But as Mary and I grew older, we, of course, started to speak more and more English. My father owning and operating a fruit and vegetable stand didn't have any formal English education, but he learned English just from his job, his profession, so he understood quite a few English words. My mother only learned through the office or the check-in at the hotel. So for the most part, we learned Japanese just by conversation at the dinner table, but my mother would help us with Japanese. I believe that as a former, a short career but as an ex-school teacher, she wanted us to pronounce the words correctly or the emphasis on the hatsuon, the emphasis on accents because whether it's a spider or a cloud, it's kumo. And so we learned Japanese words, and we tried to learn them not furo but ofuro or ohashi or tried to teach us in the proper way. There's no slang in Japanese technically but to learn clean proper Orthodox Japanese. But I feel and she told us later that she and my father really spoke Okayama-ben, if you will, the Okayama dialect, and so there would be some phrases that was strictly regional Okayama-ben rather than the Kanto/Kansai-ben of Osaka or Tokyo-ben. But Mary and I learned our conversational Japanese there. But of course during the day, we would be speaking English all day with the Catholic nuns and with our classmates, and so the dinnertime conversation was interesting. It wasn't any particular agenda, but we would talk about what happened at school and what happened at Japanese school and what my father did today. And at that time, his fruit and vegetable stand was I believe fair to say that doing well, and he would buy peaches and watermelon and cantaloupe by the truckload and literally compete with Fred Meyers at that time. Fred Meyers is not the, you know, several hundred store network being a part of Kroger chain of mass merchandisers that it is today. They had the drug store on Fifth Avenue and a couple of other stores and that was it. And so the Columbia Boulevard Fruit and Vegetable Stands competed, and in order to compete, my father had to go to the market very early in the morning. So he'd tell us about that sometime at dinnertime or of upcoming events of a wedding or a judo tournament or the undoukai that's going to come up during the summer or maybe a movie that's playing. So talk around the neighborhood and what Mr. Yasui said and my mother would update him on how the hotel is going, whether there's any problem customers, something that needs maintenance.

And I have to admit that my father as I reflect back on it was extremely handy. No, he was not an electrician. He was not a plumber. But in a sense, he was all of that. He fixed everything, and he would tinker with radios and make them work again. He'd fix the steam heater, and he fixed the leaky pipes, and he would take down doors, and he learned to wallpaper. And really as I think about it now, the skills and talents that he had were really quite amazing because he didn't have the modern day tools to do all that. He had several tools that were uniquely Japanese and brought here from Japan, and he used those for multi-purposes. So he fixed a lot of things in the hotel. But our dinnertime conversation covered everything. And sometimes there were times that my parents would have to discipline us, and maybe we didn't learn the words then, but I think most of us in terms of learning and respecting our elders, learning discipline, learning right from wrong, I think came at a very early age and in my case came during our time and years in Nihonmachi in the hotel during dinnertime, studying katakana with my mother, doing things that we should be doing before is not continual recess, but there are really jobs and little responsibilities for even children. And so I think a lot of us learned at a fairly early age about certain things that are duties and things that we need to do and things that we should not do.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MH: You talked about your grandparents being here. Can you tell us when they returned to Japan, why, and also how old was your dad when he first came here?

GN: When my father first left Okayama and it was a rural part of Okayama actually Kibi-gun, Ashimori-cho, which is really a farming community about forty-five minutes out of Okayama-shi, came over. He came over with his father, Kitano Nakata and his mother, and the grandparents only stayed for a relatively short period of time. My father was a teenager, eighteen or nineteen at the time, but he was just out of high school. And he came over as he told me later as looking for opportunities, looking for perhaps a new chapter in life that even as a teenager felt that remaining in Okayama, perhaps the opportunities were limited. The chances were a bit small, and so they came over. My grandfather and grandmother I think were comfortable with Portland, Oregon, and so they left back to Japan. But in the case of my grandfather, he came back over for a visit another time, and so I got acquainted with my grandfather at the age of five or six or seven when he stayed over for quite some months for a while. My grandmother remained always in Japan. My father first came over and then took a job on the railroad as many Isseis did at that time. I'm sure it was hard work. They had gangs at that time that worked for certain railroads, the SPNS. The Spokane/Seattle Pacific was one of the main hires of Japanese labor. But he knew one thing I believe and told me later that he did not want to do that too long, so he sought out other opportunities, and he felt that perhaps grocery store might be promising. He felt that operating a hotel, he can certainly do that. He can not only do that, but with a minimum of labor actually, so they took over the management of the Pomona Hotel after he went back to Japan, married my mother, then came over. My mother of course being eight or nine years younger than my father, she was very energetic. She gave up her career as a teacher, came over, and really as I reflect back on it, must have worked extremely hard to make all the beds and keep the hallways clean and things running. And oftentimes of course, my father, operating the fruit and vegetable stand had to come back, and work after he got home to fix a leaky faucet or do some repairs in and around the hotel. The hotel itself was not all that large, so it didn't have that many rooms, but my grandparents, at least my grandfather, was very comfortable of my parents running the hotel, running the fruit and vegetable stand, and so he then went back to Japan.

And fast forwarding it for the moment, when my wife Keiko and I went to Japan and visited Okayama a few years ago, we found a cousin that is now residing in the house that my father grew up in. And as I entered that house and we're having a little snack and tea and ocha and some manju or whatever, staying there for a number of hours, and my cousin telling me, "Yoshio, your father Shigeo grew up in this house," it really took me aback as I started to look around the room and looked at the walls and walked around the house and thought, "Gee, as a youngster as a teenager, my father lived in this very house." Now my cousin explained that since that time, they have fixed the house. They've added a room. They've expanded. They reroofed it. But essentially he says, "The house that you see is really basically the house that your father grew up in." So learning about the Kibi-gun and Ashimori-cho outside of Okayama and walking into the rooms that my father lived in really was quite an experience for me. I wasn't that close to my grandparents, but I met them both, and my grandfather I got to spend quite a bit of time. He stayed for a number of months, walked all the way through Japantown many, many times with him, many dinners that he was at our table, so I got well acquainted with him.

MH: You talked about most children having duties to do at home. Can you remember anything about those duties?

GN: The chores and responsibilities we had as youngsters weren't really huge jobs, but they were simply things that we should be doing and should be taking care of. And so in my case, my bedroom, you know, it should be neat. It wasn't always neat, but it was really my responsibility to clean up and put things away. And the few toys that Mary and I had, we don't leave them scattered. Sure, we can play with them probably anytime, but we had to put them away into our little toybox. And things that... like feeding the fish and later on, cleaning the canary cage and things of that sort, we did not have duties that had to do with cleaning rooms in the hotel or changing sheets or anything like that. No, I was quite young, born in 1934, and the war breaking out in '41. You can see that the years that I'm reflecting on would be more in four, six, seven, eight years old. So the jobs were in one sense not huge jobs, but I think later on as I think about it, it at least taught us something about, we have to do things ourselves. We can't depend on everybody else, rather that they're depending on us to put away our toys and keep our room tidy and go to school when we're supposed to go to school and learn things that really are for our good. And so those are some of the early lessons that I happened to learn.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MH: Where were you or can you remember where you were on December the 7th? What were you doing? Can you remember that at all when the war started?

GN: I don't remember the moment. I was probably too young. I was home. My parents explained what is happening. And of course, prior leading up to that, there was, even as a child, you sense some stress or some tension building up through the weeks and through the months keeping in mind that their communication was basically reading the Japanese newspaper. They were not daily subscribers to the Oregon Journal or the Oregonian, so it's what hearsay at the Teikoku Hotel or at Mary's Cafe or Inouye's Bath House or in Japantown or the talk at Columbia River Fruit and Vegetable Stand or what's going on that Japan and America, things are coming very tense, and the relationship is really breaking down. So even as a child, you sense something's going on. But I have met people that tell me exactly where they were, the moment they heard the news, the moment they heard about Pearl Harbor, what was happening. No, I cannot. As a small child, I can only say that I learned it from my parents, through my parents at home, and I can also say that they felt extremely stressed out. They didn't know what to do. They didn't know about their future. They didn't know what tomorrow, next week, and next month was going to bring. And probably as the weeks and months went by and the curfew started to become in place, you can see my father having to go to the market early in the morning, could not go to the market early in the morning, and that directly impacted our family and our business. So part of the curfew, and although we didn't, we were not going out late at night anyhow, but the six to eight curfew was certainly in place and certainly you hear about it. And even as a youngster, you hear your parents talking to other parents about it. And when Mr. Yasui would come over or Mr. Matsumoto would come over or Mr. Matsumoto would come over, they'd be talking in very serious tones. And so as a youngster, you would sense that. But I really don't recall the exact date and hour and where I was and what happened.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MH: Now where did you go? Most people in Portland went to the Portland Assembly Center and how did you get there?

GN: The majority, the predominance of Portland people of course went to the Portland Livestock, renamed the Portland Assembly Center. That was a place of course that they marshaled up most of the people in Multnomah and surrounding counties as sort of a temporary home. Yes, we did go there, but I think one of the stressful periods was leading up to that time. History of course will record Executive Order 9066, which was very recently, by the way, stricken off the records and General John DeWitt's order and the curfew, all of those things are recorded in the annals of history. But from a family point of view, in our case, my older sister and brother are in Japan and how are we going to unite our family again was obviously a major concern to my parents. When you're six or seven or eight years old, you're concerned that your siblings, brother, sister are far away, but you do not understand the hazards and consequences of a war. Certainly, they had, deep, serious concerns. And then came the order that we're going to have to, if you will evacuate and leave to the Portland Assembly Center. And in our case, having had four children with the hotel business, with the fruit and vegetable stand business, to get rid of those businesses, to get rid of your possessions, to close bank accounts, and all the other things and the myriad of responsibilities that one has to do in a matter of days, must have been an awesome task facing my parents. And when you think of only the bag and baggage you can carry.

I remember years later when we had the Day of Remembrance out at the Portland Exposition Center, our family had a number was the theme. I remember taking my daughter Deena there and telling her that, "You know, Dad and his jiichan and baachan had to pack only what they could carry. Tell me Deena, could you pack everything you want into a bag if someone told you that you're going to go somewhere and you're never going to come back to this house again?" Oh, no, never. Well, Jiichan and Baachan had to do that. Not only that there were many rules, you can't bring knives, you can't bring radios, you can't bring cameras, you can't bring a lot of things, but do indeed bring warm clothing, bring rubber boots, bring mittens. So Jiichan and Baachan, my parents, Kane and Shigeo Nakata, had to not only get rid of that console radio to the policeman on the beat, but their phonograph player and their camera and all the other things that they had, and they're hoping that Adam can take some of the things and put it away for us. We had Japanese culture in terms of the festival, the Boys' Day and the Girls' Day, now of course combined as Children's Day in Japan. But during those years, it was Japan, it was Girls' Day, hinamatsuri or it was Boys' Day, you learn about all the various dolls, and my mother had all the dolls that she would put up on Girls' Day. And on Boys' Day, she'd put up all the boys dolls. We had those kinds of prized possessions. What do you do with those? You couldn't take them. And so we only took what we could take, and a lot of those somehow got lost in the shuffle, and only a few scattering of things did we ever get back when we came back after the war ended. So the few days, the few weeks leading up to the actual movement to the Portland Assembly Center may not have been long, it may have been from December till March or April or May, and different families went on different days of course, but packing a large suitcase, packing this big duffle bag, moving and getting on a bus, going out to the Portland Assembly Center, was quite an experience even for a youngster.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MH: Before we get to that part, did your parents, were they ever able to contact your two siblings that were in Japan after the war started?

GN: Yes. There were some letters through the Red Cross and through indirect means we were able to get to my grandparents as well as my two siblings, my brother and my sister in Japan, not often, but rather long intervals in between, but we learned that they were well. They were going to school, and I don't know whether there were a lot of strict limitations and restrictions. We knew that my sister ended up working in an airplane factory. We knew that my brother ended up being drafted into the Japanese army. I was of course later drafted in the U.S. Army. But toward the end of the war, he became, if you will, a nitohei, a buck private in the Japanese army. So we learned some of these things through intermediaries, through the Red Cross, but at least my parents had the comfort and assurance that my brother and sister were well and my grandfather and grandmother were well. And I remember immediately following the war, we sent many, many packages to Japan because as we all recognized, it was a country that was devastated, and all their resources were used for the war, and so everyday items, pieces of clothing, everyday utensils, tools, whatever, pens, pencils, they did not have. And so many days, we would package things up. And even then, I remember taking a grocery bag, disassembling it, reversing it so the name doesn't show, and using that to wrap up the boxes and how to tie them together so that it will be safe, how to cushion fragile things. And maybe they can be called care packages, but in our case, they were just things that our family needed, and so we sent things to them on a very regular basis until my sister and brother were able to come back and rejoin us in the mid-1950s.

MH: How old were they when they were sent to Japan?

GN: Oh, gosh. They were in their teens, and so they went there. They continued Nihon gakkou. They of course became very, very fluent in Japanese. My brother was old enough that he retained some of his English. Fortunately when he came back, he had already, some things were quite familiar to him. But both of them went through high school in Okayama. And then of course because of the hazards of war, some of their careers of course were pretty well dictated by a national dictum in necessity. They were into their twenties when they finally got back here.

MH: Many families after the war started, the FBI visited their homes. Did that ever occur in your family?

GN: I don't recall the FBI visiting our home. I know a number of friends, the Matsushimas as one example, where the FBI visited. I really couldn't understand why that was later as I started to try to logically and objectively analyze this. My father had two businesses and in relative terms was quite successful, and he owned cars, you know, and had lifetime possessions, and yet Yosuke Nakata, his partner, was one of the people interviewed and taken away to Heart Mountain and others to Texas in Crystal Springs and other besides the ten standard, if you will, relocation internment camps. So as I reflect back on that, yes, a number of our friends were visited by FBI people. I don't recall the FBI coming to our hotel. I don't think there was a real evaluation or assessment or clear ranking of who should be taken before the general populous of the Japanese and Japanese American community, and the reason I say that is that a number of important people I don't think were taken away early. They ended up in camp along with us, and other people that may not have been key community leaders were taken away. So I think the fear that Japanese are loyal to the emperor, loyal to Japan, they must, the leaders must be taken away. They're still dangerous to the United States of America. All the barbwire and the machine gun, all those, that fear that was raging in 1941, early 1942, the selection of who the FBI should interview and then make the decision of who should be taken away early and separated from their families, basically men by the way. I don't remember any women being taken away, be it from Gresham or Milwaukie or Hillsboro, Hood River, or Portland. As I reflect on it, I don't think that there was a systematic, a real clear picture of what they were doing.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MH: And let's go back to the Portland Assembly Center. How did you feel about it?

GN: Well Portlanders, some 3600 Portlanders plus, were all gathered together there in this Portland Livestock Exposition all under one roof, and I think it's hard for people that have not had that experience to picture this. The plyboard, plywood partitions. The roof over your head is the roof of the exposition center. Pigeons flying around. People next door snoring away, cots as beds, mattresses with straw in them, canvas doors. We lived in section three, no different than section two, section one. There's a mess hall. But that was as I reflect back, to me the first demonstration later on as I reflected, the first demonstration of the Nikkei Japanese community's ability and skill to organize, to make do, to make the best of a given situation because suddenly the Portland Assembly Center, there was someone looking after the mess hall. I think it was Francis Hayashi. There was somebody looking after a newspaper. There was somebody organizing the fire department. There was somebody in charge of education. There was somebody in charge of hobbies and recreation. There was, suddenly, things were organized. And I remember school started in the, what they hold the rodeos in. It's really the arena, and I remember our class going to a certain section there. And I think school started like at 9 o'clock in the morning until 11:30, if I remember. And the importance of education of course was instilled in all of us already, so we knew the value of reading and writing and arithmetic and the need to continue on our education regardless of the fact that we're in a livestock exposition. So teachers became teachers and barbers became barbers and doctors became doctors in the Portland Assembly Center.

I remember going to the mess hall. I never knew what oatmeal was, never had oatmeal in my life. They called it mush, and I love mush. It was great. I thought oatmeal was really something special. And there were things there that I never ate in my life. Cow tongue, what in the world, never liked it. But kind of having a Japanese diet as a child and being used to rice and fish and tofu and otsukemono and those kind of things and okazu and sukiyaki, and suddenly there's raw carrots, and suddenly, there's other things that you're just not accustomed to, and so it was an experience just going to the mess hall. But I found friends and where they were. Somebody was in section two and somebody was in one. And to a small child, all the corridors and the hallways look the same and everybody kind of had a canvas door. So you'd hear arguments in the next compartment, and you'd hear singing, and you'd hear conversation, and there's not, wasn't a whole lot to do there, but you'd kind of wander around and go to the arena and you'd go outside. As I reflect back on it now, it's probably the older people, older meaning teenagers that perhaps had a rougher time. After all, if you're in a livestock exposition and you're going to go out on a date, where in the world would you go? That never bothered me because as a eight or nine-year-old or seven-year-old, whatever I was, I never thought of that at the time. It was more important to play kick the can and seeing what they're going to have for the next dinner or lunch at the mess hall.

We had an interesting time. It was the summer of 1942 there at the Portland Assembly Center. I remember some people going out to, if you will, the fence and talking to friends that would come by on a Saturday or Sunday to see them. I recall meetings that they used to have that my parents would go to, never knew what the meetings were about. But that fall, of course, after several months there and it was kind of an ordeal in that a number of people really got sick. And as you can imagine living in such close quarters, several thousand people, suddenly bacteria and germs could just spread very quickly. And anyone that has been in that group of people would all remember the odor because it was a livestock exposition. And no matter how you clean it up, it's like going to a county fair. When you go there to check out the rabbits and the chickens and the cows, there's a certain pungent odor there, and that odor was there. So yes, those summer months of '42 in the Portland Assembly Center, short as it might be, for a young child, it's indelible. It's not something that one forgets, and it will probably remain with me forever. I can really picture the one room and the several cots that we had in there. Mary and mine and the parents. There's not room really to move around. It was a relatively small room and four of us sleeping there, and you know, you have your things that you could carry that you just have sitting on the side of the bed. So the days there were not really spent much inside your little compartment but rather kind of just wandering around with friends, trying to play make up games, and there weren't a lot of activities although the recreation chairperson I know tried to keep all the young people and the children as well as the adults occupied. They had hobby classes and they had language classes and they had things that appealed to a wide variety of people that were there simply because it was stressful I believe to the older people.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MH: You talked about going to school, did you have paper, pencil? Do you know how they got all the supplies?

GN: We had the minimal amount of things, and of course, teachers were teachers from the outside, and so they were accredited teachers for the most part. Just like in Minidoka, that's kind of what happened, and medical doctors became medical doctors and dentists became dentists. But school was not all day. It was relatively short. I can't attest to the accuracy because there might have been more afternoon classes that I didn't go to. I happened to go to a class that was from about 9 to 11:30. We did have some, if you will, tools. We did not have desks. We sat in the rows that people attending a rodeo would sit in. We would have some paper and some pencil, but that would be it. I believe that only the teacher had a textbook or two. I don't remember distributing much to the students themselves, so it was kind of limited. But I recall that we were huddled in a small area, and in this arena, there were other classes going on simultaneously. So I presume that the fifth grade was somewhere else or the sixth grade was somewhere else and the eighth grade was somewhere else. But in our case, our class was relatively small and many of us knew each other, and so it was not an ordeal but rather kind of enjoyable to see our friends again and attend class from 9 to 11:30.

MH: Did your parents work at the assembly center?

GN: They did odds and end jobs, my parents did, but did not have full-time jobs there. Some people of course did. Our friends, some of them did. They clearly had responsibilities. So they had ministers there. They had reverends there, bishops there doing their thing. The barbers were doing their jobs. Unlike Minidoka when many people had permanent jobs, my father worked in the mess hall in Block 34, but he did not have a permanent job there. But I remember sort of the esprit d'corps or the community helping spirit of the Japanese that really surfaced. There were people just helped people, and it was like we're in the same boat. We all have the same circumstances. We all have the same common challenges. We're going to do this together. And so I know friends that volunteered to wash dishes, to work in the mess hall, to clean up the grounds, to be a fireman, to assist in various things, so there was a lot of volunteer work I think that was going on, newspapers that were put together. I think it was simply a newsletter, a mimeograph, so that people would know what's going on. And certainly later on that fall, everyone was advised that we would be going someplace, parts unknown really to us. I don't my parents ever knew a place called Hunt or Minidoka, Idaho. I think most of the people did not know whether it was Topaz or Manzanar or Minidoka. On the train, MPs walking up and down the aisles, pull your window shades down. We're going east, but we're not sure quite where. So when you disembark at the Twin Falls and you're bussed over to Minidoka through the sagebrush and the dust, you really didn't know where you were. And so the assembly center experience was kind of a prelude. It was kind of temporary. Yes, the quarters were slightly larger in Minidoka, but the month, the several months spent in the Portland Assembly Center sort of was a preview of the hazards of war of groups of people, if you will, being forced together and by executive order or by law brought together to an internment camp and living over there of course in barracks that we can talk about. Assembly center was kind of a preview to that.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MH: So where did you end up? What relocation center did you go to?

GN: Our relocation and most Portlanders as well as most people from Seattle and most of the people from the Northwest, Yakima, Wapato, Tacoma, ended up in Minidoka, Idaho. Minidoka of course geographically fairly close to Twin Falls, Eden, Jerome, Idaho; Buhl, Idaho. It was kind of an experience of going. Again, repacking your bags and bags, you don't have a whole lot, being put on the train, and my experience was as a youngster kind of being bewildered, kind of knowing that you're going to go on this train. You're not accustomed to riding on trains, not something you do on a regular basis. Going on a train, we saw trains all the time at Union Station living in Northwest Portland going across the Steel Bridge, but we didn't ride on trains. Suddenly, this train is full of Japanese. And then there's these soldiers, to a youngster just a soldier kind of going up and down the aisle. Seemed like there was sort of a hush, sort of a resolve or a quietness or an unusual feeling as we left Union Station because no one told us how many hours we're going to be on the train. No one told us where we're going. And I think to the Isseis, it must have been frightening. I later thought about somebody growing up in Okayama, Japan, not knowing any place in America but Oregon and Washington, not knowing the geography of how huge America really is, not knowing that they might be going thousands of miles inland and being totally unaware. I don't think any of us can appreciate that tension and that stress. I don't think any of us can rightfully say we are placed in a plane or a train or a truck or a bus and told that we're going someplace that you are not going to be told where you are going to go. That's quite something. So there we are chugging away, and it was quite a long ride if I remember, but disembarking there in Idaho.

And finally, the word gets around and we're in Idaho and we're going to this place. A lot of the Isseis could hardly pronounce the word. They thought it was an Indian word called Minidoka. And so we went there riding a bus, and in our case, it's Block 34, and it's a lifestyle that suddenly even as a child, you recall, because when you go to the Portland Assembly Center in our case, our family became Number 15066. I don't think Mary and I will ever forget our family number of 15066. It was marked on our bag; it was marked on our tag; it was marked on our suitcase. Now we had another number. It's called 34-6-A, forty-four blocks in Minidoka each having ten barracks, twelve barracks, mess hall, laundry room. We were in barrack number six, A through F. If you have three or four children, you get compartment B or E. If you have two, you get A or F. So we ended up in 34-6-A. Again, a number that will stay with our family forever.

So here we get off at Twin Falls and are bussed to Minidoka, and we're there in Block 34. And as you look out, all you can see are rows and rows of barrack with tarpaper outside, black tarpaper. And beyond the barbwire fence, you see sagebrush forever, just rolls of hills of sagebrush. And off toward what seemingly was Block 35, you see a water tower which becomes kind of a landmark later on as we were able to go outside the premises of Minidoka Camp. But as we landed at Block 34, I was taken by the dust, ankle deep, in my case, came way above the ankles. I don't think anybody really knows what that is until you're in it. When you step and suddenly you can't see your shoes, your ankles, you're in dust. And of course, we all became accustomed to whirlwinds and dust storms, sagebrush, tick and scorpions and rattlesnakes, Jackrabbits and you name it. But the first days there, there was no drinking water, so I had to walk up to Block 36 to get drinking water and that became one of my early duties for the family. Yoshio, Mitsuo, you know, I'd have to go get my water, had a jug went up there and got water. And it was several days thereafter that water was tested, the piping plumbing, running water came into most of the mess halls and most of the laundry rooms. So our introduction to Minidoka was a barren place that they put up tarpaper barracks with these different size compartments therein, each one with a potbelly Franklin stove where you feed coal into it, with beds, with a door, walls aren't too particularly thick, wooden floors, rather sparse, but that was to be your home from this day forward. You don't know for how long.

And as one settled down into your, in our case Block 34, there were meetings called, and again suddenly, there was a block manager, Mr. Muramatsu of the Muramatsu family who lived in barrack four right behind us. And suddenly, there was a chief cook, and suddenly things were getting organized. We can't have people, older folks, plowing through the dust and sometimes the mud going to eat every day. We need to build walks. So all the teenagers, all the young people, even I went out there to try to help move rocks or boulders or gravel and try to build walkways in front of each barrack so that when you walk down your several stairs, you can get onto sort of an elevated walk and get to the bathroom or the laundry room or the mess hall safely without getting yourself totally in mud or immersed in dust. So as I observe life there in Minidoka, suddenly there were many things that started to emerge. Farmers that had farms around Hillsboro and Gresham, Milwaukie, Hood River started to really grow gardens. And so supplementing that food that were brought into camps by requirement, many of the Japanese and Japanese American farmers started to grow other things, some berries, some row crop, some fresh vegetables, some Japanese vegetables. How? I don't know. How they got the seeds, I don't know. But suddenly things started to get organized.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

GN: And suddenly in Block 32, a Stafford school emerged, and suddenly we had a grade school. We had actually two grade schools, one down in a lower block, one up in Block 32, and then we had Hunt High School sort of in the middle of the whole Minidoka internment complex. Between Block 32 and Block 34 -- there was no Block 33 -- became sort of a baseball diamond, became sort of a playground. Near the canal that ran adjacent to Minidoka, they dug a big hole and made a swimming hole fairly close to Block 30, Block 31. At Block 34, one of the side barracks was converted into a theater, not really a theater but folding chairs, boxes to sit on, a screen and a movie projector. So things started to get organized little by little, step by step. And again, the Japanese built a hospital, and the doctors continued their practice, those that weren't drafted into the army, those that weren't part of the 442nd. Teachers that were teachers became teachers. The Murakami sisters were teachers at Stafford, and Miss Morton and Miss Kleinkauff or Mrs. Kleinkauff came in from Twin Falls to teach us.

So the organization of the Japanese later as I became old enough to understand it, was truly amazing to me and how they really made do with what limited things that they were equipped with. So they knew that education must continue, that some form of entertainment must continue. Each block had their thing. There were softball teams organized. My dad had never played softball in his life was suddenly on the Block 34 softball team. Mr. Katada, Jane's father, was on there. Mr. Hobara was on there, never caught a fly ball in his life. First fly ball that was hit to him in right field, he was under it, moved his mitt. The ball hit him square in the eye, biggest black eye I've ever seen. Mr. Muramatsu drove a ball into right center field. The ball went on forever. He ran to third base until Hank told him, "Papa, kochi yo, kochi yo," and he ran across the pitcher's mound over to first base, made it there with plenty of time to spare. My father always kept change and keys in his pocket. Whenever he got a base hit, you can hear all this thing jangling in his pocket as he ran around the bases. It was a great time to go watch because watching a softball game, we didn't really see organized softball before although they had it in Portland, the older Niseis played, but here you have Isseis forming a softball team, playing softball. Now the baseball players, they had very good athletes. Hank Matsubu and Takamis and the Shiki boys, and they were all there, Ray Shiki, Tom Shiki, great players. And they had the team called "The No Name Team" and they had "The Chain Gang Team," and I remember teams from, gosh, nearby Jerome and Eden and Twin Falls coming in to play, and our, we were probably say our "Chain Gang" and our "No Name" Nisei teams always beat them. So they were pretty good players that the Niseis put together in camp.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

GN: So life went on in camp. Yes, we ate what seemingly was strange food because a lot of us were not used to a lot of western food at that time, but we got used to things called Brussels sprout. Never knew what that was. Never did become my favorite, but ate it anyhow. Brussels sprout, my golly, that was something else. And cow tongue, hated that, and later on, smelt. But there were a lot of things that I did like. I liked the pancakes, and I like certain things that they made, their macaroni and spaghetti and few other things that they came up with. So we had a good time. And then later on up in the upper blocks, they had a canteen, and we can go there and, not often because we didn't have the money, but we can buy some snacks. And we were lucky in Block 34 because Saburo or Sam Kondo operated the theater. That was there in Block 34 and so-called hired us to sweep the floor couple times a week, and so three of us would sweep the floor, and we would gladly sweep the floor. We would have done it for nothing, but I think we were paid a quarter or so. Anyhow, when sweeping the floor, invariably, we would find a nickel here and dime there. Once in a while, we'd find a quarter. And as soon as our sweeping chores were over, we'd high tail it up to the canteen to see what we could buy. So that was a great job we had at camp simply sweeping the floor after movies for Mr. Kondo.

My father was an assistant in the mess hall, $16 a month. The chief cook got $19 a month. They worked pretty hard, three times a day preparing the meal for everybody, you know. There's no such things as vacancy. All the rooms were taken. All twelve barracks, all six compartments in each barrack were always full, and no question, they were more than full. Some people had five or six children, so I don't know how they did it, but we made do. And come lunch time, dinner time, there would be a short line, and you'd go there. And a funny thing, people would kind of sit where they do every day, and they'd line up a certain way. And after a while, you kind of ended up sitting with the same people day in and day out, so it was kind of funny, the eating regime that we kind of went through there in Minidoka.

Later on, I think they felt after the first many, many months of having a machine gun nest and having army personnel kind of eye us very closely, they decided that we Japanese and Japanese Americans are not war mongers. We're not there to do any disrupting. We were very peaceful, law abiding cooperative people, so they gave us passes to go out, so we did go out, and we went fishing in the canal. First time that my dad got a real fishing rod and a reel, and he taught me how to cast the line out there into the middle of the canal, and we'd catch what were called suckers. And they might not have been the most delicate fish to eat, but they were still a pretty good size fish, so we would be thrilled at catching these suckers in the Minidoka canal. One of my really warm experiences that I treasure is to go out after greasewood, and we would go for quite a few miles, and our landmark would be the water tower. We'd try to not to go too far that we can't see the water tower, but we'd take different routes, and there'd be a lot of adventures. We'd run into rattlesnakes. We'd undercover a coyote cave, bones inside. We'd see jackrabbits running in front of us. We'd see live scorpion. But amongst the sea of sagebrush, every now and then, we'd see a greasewood. It's a different brush. It's got a heavy oil content in its wood. It takes a high gloss when you peel the bark off, and my dad was really quite a pioneer. He got some of the first greasewood pieces being this artistic part of his self came out, and he brought different greasewood pieces back when no one went greasewood hunting, and he made things out of them. I don't mean the obvious cane, but he made a bird. He made a tsuru, a crane, made a dog. He made a lion. He made a fruit basket. He made many, many things out of greasewood, and suddenly, a lot of people were going after greasewood, and suddenly, they were having greasewood exhibition contests and giving awards for the best greasewood piece. Mr. Niguma one of the pioneers in Nihonmachi, a longtime family friend, was there, and he and his daughter, Sakaye, lived not too far, couple blocks away, Block 35 I believe, Mr. Niguma just admire the greasewood pieces my dad had, so he would always say, "Shige-san," he would say, "please take me with you to your secret." My dad would tell him, "Niguma-san, you just go after greasewood. There's not a place that's a secret place. You just kind of wander around out there amongst the sagebrush and you stumble on to different greasewood pieces. The trick is to get the most gnarled up ones and the most unusually shaped ones and then use your great imagination to figure out what you can make with this." It's all right, just take me with you, so I was the third person. And so Mr. Niguma, my dad, and I made numerous trips, greasewood hunting. And by that time, we'd either get something at the canteen or my mother would save a little rice and make some nigiri musubi for us, pack a tiny little lunch, pack a little water, had a really warn out dented Thermos bottle at that time. That and a saw and a little stick in case we run into a rattlesnake, that's all we had, and we kind of marched out there amongst the lava rock formation, amongst the coyote caves, and we would get greasewood. And we would bring them back, we would peel off the bark, and my father had one can of Johnson floor wax. I don't know how he did it. He made that go for three and a half years. We would polish, I got sick of greasewood, but now, I'm so fond of it, still have a piece in this room that won an award. But greasewood became sort of our recreation.

And why is Mr. Niguma so important to me? Mr. Niguma had his son Tsu and he had Mitsuko, later ended up as Mrs. Kelly Kayama, had Masako who married Sugai in Ontario, had Sakai who married Aki Nishimura who was a vice principal at Benson High School, but Mr. Niguma also had Yoneko Nadine Niguma who later became Dozono, three children, Keiko, Robert, and Shozo. And Keiko, of course, is my wife for a good many years now. Keiko who never ever met Mr. Niguma, and yet somehow, I had the opportunity to know Mr. Niguma well, go greasewood hunting well, many, many times with him, greatest time with Mr. Niguma. So I'm able to reflect back and tell Keiko about her grandfather that I knew well that she never knew. So Mr. Niguma is a very, very special person to me. And one other sidebar on Mr. Niguma. Mrs. Josuke Nakata, my father's partner in the Nakata Brothers Fruit and Vegetable Stand, Mrs. Nakata was gifted with a talent and skill that probably is nowhere in medical journals anywhere. It is the ability to put your hand on top of -- not touching of course -- but on top of a hot plate, heating the palm of your hand, transferring that heat to an ailing body part, a strained muscle, a pulled ligament, a torn muscle at times. And unbelievable as it sounds, people that might have suffered a stroke that may have been paralyzed on one side of their body, that one arm doesn't move or one side of their mouth doesn't open fully, she was able, through this heating technique, able to cure them, and somehow, the one person she taught was my father. For months, he trained under her. I consider her a master, and he learned how to transfer this heat. And Mr. Niguma, after returning to Portland, suffered a stroke, and for days, my father gave him the heat treatment. And gradually, I could see Mr. Niguma eating more properly, moving more properly, and finally, he was almost back to normal. So it was really quite a thing that medical doctors who've gone through and interned probably the formal way would not even consider this, but I've seen it personally up close. And ironic as it sounds, after Mr. Niguma passed away, his son Tsu had almost the identical stroke. So Tsu Niguma came over to our Park Hotel then after the war for several treatments every week that went on for months, and Tsu Niguma, like his father, was treated for his ailing body also by my father. So it's kind of a side note of Mr. Niguma, greasewood, and that experience that really originated for me in Minidoka, Idaho.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

GN: Stafford School fortunately is located in Block 32. There was no Block 33, and so we walk across the baseball diamond and are directly at Stafford School, so Block 34 was from that point of view a very nice location. We had teachers that were Nikkei Japanese Americans that were teachers before entering Minidoka supplemented by teachers from nearby communities. I became particularly close to Mrs. Edith Kleinkauff, who came in from Twin Falls, Idaho, and coincidentally, her husband, Arthur Kleinkauff, was the superintendent of schools there at the Minidoka internment project. But Betty Murakami and various teachers taught various grades, and I think the schedule or curriculum if you will were quite standard if you will because as the months and years went by, we had textbooks, we had desks, we had writing instruments, and my recall is that it was extremely competitive. I think for some cultural or perhaps other reasons, the Japanese Americans were used to the regiment of studying, of doing their homework, of trying to be the best, of trying to get a one or an A, to do superior, outstanding work. And so when you have a group of students whether you are in the fourth grade, the sixth grade or in high school, I'm of the opinion that you have an extremely competitive environment if they're all Japanese Americans. So we had, I think, stimulating classes. We did the required three R's, but we also had time to do artwork, music. I particularly enjoyed art. I later on went to art class back here in Portland and continued that as a hobby which I'm again pursuing with painting and other things now that I'm a senior, so it had its beginning days back there at Stafford School. One of the things I vividly remember is Mrs. Kleinkauff reading a chapter of Lassie Comes Home every day until she finished the book, and then she would pick out another book and read it, a chapter each day. And although we had our own books to read and our own daily requirements, that was sort of an extracurricular sort of a bonus, if you will. And so those of us that had Mrs. Kleinkauff, there are stories like Lassie Come Home that we know very, very well because first of all, she was an excellent reader and her emphasis and enunciation and dramatics, and she's simply a very good reader.

I became very close to Mrs. Kleinkauff. She was not that close to me, but she just seemed like I could relate to her, and I was probably just another student perhaps. But many years thereafter, I happened to attend a conference in Idaho that required my going through Twin Falls. So I went through Twin Falls, and I told Keiko that I want to look up the Kleinkauff phone number and just telephone her, which I did. A gentleman answered the phone. I identified myself as having been to the Minidoka internment camp. He in turn identified himself as Arthur Kleinkauff, and I immediately said, "You were the superintendent of the school." He said, "Well, that I was indeed." And I said, "I called because I was a student of your wife, Edith Kleinkauff." There was this pause, and then he said, "I'm sorry, we lost Edith last week." And so that was really a blow to me personally having had such high regard. It's probably like a lot of us. We have a favorite teacher. You have someone that you can relate to back in grade school, back in high school, and Edith Kleinkauff was just one of my favorite teachers along with Sister Mary Madaliva and a couple of others. And just sort of being a week late was an extreme disappointment to me. So that happened a few years ago.

But reflecting back on Stafford School, I believe that it was really a good learning process. I don't feel that because I didn't remain in Portland, I didn't go to Couch School, I didn't go to a standard school if you will that we lost a step. I say that because when we came back, Mary and I and others that I was close to, we were able to hold our own in the classroom academically, scholastically, really from day one. And so I think that if we were fourth graders, whether we were sixth graders, eighth graders from first day, we were right up there with our classmates as we returned. So I think academically, even if it was a makeshift faculty, even if temporary barracks, even if the equipment was less than superior, I think that the, and probably a lot of credit has to go to the teachers, the staff, the superintendent, and someone that knew how important education was to the Japanese Americans. But Stafford was a pleasant experience for me. I look forward to going to school each day as we were all in there for three and a half or whatever years. I think that we kept up academically, and I believe that competing with fellow Japanese Americans and their competitive nature and the discipline and dedication that they have, I think, helped all of us. I don't recall any weak students in my class. I don't recall any severe disciplinary problems. I just recall a group of really hard studying students that participated in everything from class discussion to you name it. And we had plays; we had enjoyment; we had music; we had art; we had sports. I remember two people in our class did a great Abbot and Costello, kept us just rolling, "who's on first" routine. They had it down pat. And we're talking about movies and talking about movies in Mr. Kondo's theater in Block 34, they always had a serial. They had a movie special like Sunrise Serenade with John Payne and Sonja Henie maybe. But at the same time, they would have an episode of Rin Tin Tin or they'd have an episode of Flash Gordon. And of course, it ends with him falling off a cliff or something, and you're just waiting for the next episode which won't go on until next week. So here we are, fifth graders, six graders talking about the last episode of that serial. It's there that we got acquainted with what a German police dog look like. And so a there's lot of things that through classmates we learn about.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

GN: Summertime, of course, we'd walk out to where the good farming community would be growing extra vegetables and Japanese things, Japanese eggplants and gobo and a few things, extra treats for us. We'd walk out to the water tower, and it seemed very tall and enormous to us at that time. But Stafford School was where we learned a lot of games, games that I don't even know are played anymore. The jintori, you know, all the kick the cans and all those kind of things that we played. That's where most of us learned organized sports. Even at a young age, we learned what touch football was about. We learned about what softball was about. We played softball with what was called a Roman shortstop. We had ten people out on the field rather than nine who played sort of behind the regular shortstop in left center field. We had very few left-handed batters, for example. So it was kind of a unique experience, and Japanese Americans, there were some pretty good athletes, and we always had teachers, Roy Okazaki and Hank Matsubu, far, far older than I at the time, right next to the mess hall of Block 34 catcher's mitt. Hank Matsubu used to throw to me. And at the end just before we left camp, he was a big man and he played for the "No Name Team," he would throw curve balls to me at his hardest, and that's where I learned how to really catch a fast ball and a curve ball and a knuckle ball. But we all learned sports from older Niseis there, how to hold the bat and little things of digging in and batting stance and even learned how to throw a curve ball myself and never thought I could, but all the little things about sports, about touch football. We rarely had tackle or real football because we didn't have the equipment, and there was all the fear that, well, too many people are going to get hurt without shoulder pads and without shin guards and without proper equipment. So basically, we played touch football. The guy with the ball, you got to touch him below the belt. Of course, it always leads to many arguments. "You touched me above the belt." "No, I didn't." But we had a lot of fun playing touch football. A lot of games, a lot of recreation, but when it came time to study, I think Stafford School in my way of thinking did really an outstanding job given the circumstances.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MH: Do you remember Christmas in camp at all?

GN: I remember Christmas very well. Christmas was a very special time for all of us, in my case, remembering Christmas at the Pomona Hotel. Christmas was a time at the Pomona Hotel when I'd put on my jacket, and every Christmas I would find a walnut inside the pocket of my jacket. And when I opened up the walnut, I would find a quarter inside. Obviously, my dad had put it there for Christmas. And above the bedpost, had kind of a wrought iron bedpost, not a fancy headboard, there'd be hanging a bag of popcorn for me at Christmastime. And then Mary and I would get up, we wouldn't have much, but as I mentioned, got from Sakano Jewelry that great Mickey Mouse watch. So Christmastime was a very important time. Yes, the nuns had told us of the religious connotations of Christmas. But in Minidoka, it was a time that I remember going around and looking at all the mess halls. There was competition after year two or three that whether you're in Block 44, 34, or 24, you decorate your mess halls for Christmas, and the best get the first prize and so forth, so on. So we would go around, and I was amazed at the creativity, the imagination, and the originality of the Nikkei people. They would build things with whatever, whether it's coal or a chunk of sagebrush or a piece of tarpaper off the wall. Somehow, it became a winter wonderland. It became a snowman. It became a Christmas tree. And we had artists. We had Cannon Kitayama. We had people in our block that were absolute artists. And so there were many times that Block 34 won great prizes. But the sobering part of Christmas was at a fairly early age, I was walking around with friends to see other mess halls, and I saw on some windows a gold star. And I started to ask now, "What is that gold star on that window?" There weren't too many at the early time. I found out that a gold star was when that family lost usually a son, maybe a husband in World War II, had given the supreme sacrifice, had died and killed in action. And so when I went around the next year and I saw more gold stars, or I went and saw two gold stars in the same window, perhaps at a young age, you kind of understand death, but you really don't, the finality of it, but you kind of have a sense.


GN: Christmas in Minidoka was quite interesting. All the mess halls were decorated. There were a lot of contests, and most of the blocks had their own Santa Claus, and for some reason and from some place, some presents appeared, gift wrapped and all. Our parents didn't really donate or buy any gifts, they couldn't. But perhaps from some charitable organization, maybe outside the camp, they brought in presents for all the children which Santa Claus gave out which was quite a treat for us because for the most part, most of the children in camp really didn't get presents whether it's their birthday or an anniversary. It was kind of an absence of presents for those three plus years. So that kind of made Christmas special especially to young people who kind of relate presents with Christmas. We had, of course, a special Christmas dinner, but it was at the mess hall, but perhaps a little bit better with some decoration, maybe a pumpkin pie or two. But for the most part, it was almost like most other days. They quickly tore down the decorations in each mess hall so that they can function as usual again. But it was a time of year that oftentimes snow would be falling. And even in desolate Minidoka's Hunt, Idaho, it was rather picturesque to see the snow in the sagebrush, on the roof tops, and so forth, so quite an enjoyable time at Christmas for us.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MH: Did you walk around camp very much? Did you see things, you know?

GN: We actually walked around quite a bit. Within Block 34, only two people had bicycles, and one of the people later on would never let the children use his bicycle. Mr. Kondo though was very generous, so we used to butter up to him and always ask him about once a week whether we could ride his bicycle. However, there were about five or six of us, and we could never all ride the bicycle, so it'd be just two at a time riding a block or two, longest trip we would make would be up to the canteen to buy a snack. So in actuality, most of the places we went to, we walked there. The longest walks I would take was when my mother got ill and was hospitalized at the Minidoka hospital, and we had that long walk from Block 34 clear down to, I can't remember where it was but Block 5 or 6 where the hospital was. That was quite a long walk. So we went, we saw the high school, we saw gardens, we saw the water tower, canteen, movie houses. And later on, they had a lot of exhibits as the years went by. They had sewing contests, greasewood contests, painting contests, quite a few exhibits in different blocks, but we would always walk to those exhibits.

MH: What did you see in one of the windows of the barracks?

GN: Each compartment was sparsely furnished. There was really no difference from one to the other for the first couple of years. The only thing that really grabbed me were the gold stars representing soldiers that died in action. My father did an unusual thing with our compartment. Being quite creative, we were one of the first apartments to ever have a basement. Now, don't get me wrong here. When I say basement, I mean he sawed a hole in the floor, built himself a ladder with two-by-fours, dug a hole down there, and we had room to store different things. So if we were able to buy maybe a canned something up at the canteen or maybe there was something else that we wanted to keep down there, he would build those shelves, stairwell, some food, not perishable, that we'd keep in the basement. To my knowledge, we had one of the only apartments or compartments with a basement in the entire Minidoka internment camp. So everyone tried to be a bit creative, a bit original, get a piece of cloth and you go to sewing school and you make yourself a little curtain, and paintings would be hung on the wall, but nothing really drastic because you could not do anything structurally. So just a few decorative hangings, a different curtain or two, the porch, the wallpaper, the tarpaper, the Franklin stove, the bin for the coal, all of that remained pretty well stable with all the compartments, uniformly, very, very similar.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MH: Going back to your school, the elementary school, you mentioned a man who actually taught one of your classes or helped teach one of your classes. Can you tell us about him?

GN: We had a number of teachers there, both men and women. Some of them were accredited professional teachers before that. Most of them had graduated from some college or university. And then we had some teachers from nearby cities, be it Jerome or Eden or Twin Falls. One of the gentlemen there happened to live in Block 34, and his name was Kazuo Kinoshita. And took a liking to Kaz Kinoshita because first of all, he was very competent but also very friendly and really understanding that different students learn at their own pace. He taught different classes, but the one class I really remember him teaching happened to be a special class during the summertime when he taught first aid, and he taught us how to make a little tourniquet out of a handkerchief and a piece of stick. He taught us how to stop a nosebleed. He told us just in case you break your arm what to do. So he got rid of a lot of the wives' tales, and you know, you can't swim X minutes and you shouldn't eat cherry with ice cream and a whole bunch of things that we had kind of lived with for years and years. He kind of dispelled a lot of those misunderstandings.

He was a great teacher, very, very friendly, lived in our block, but I wanted again to fast forward to after the war and picking berries. We picked at a number of different berry farmers in Troutdale, Gresham, but the last place I picked at was the Kaz Kinoshita Farm. And my sister Mary and I had been there for two summers, but Mary being older, going to business college, she elected not to go back and pick berries. At the same time, Kaz wanted me to come back and, I said, "Well, Mr. Kinoshita, I really can't cook for myself. I would kind of starve." So he said, "Well, don't worry about that, George. You just come and eat with us. You become part of our family for this summer." So I went out there, and you live in these cabins. They referred to it, my parents referred to them as boy houses, but they were actually little cabins, and the Kinoshita farm fortunately had a great ofuro, a wooden Japanese bathtub with a live fire underneath. Of course, the longer you stay in it, the hotter you get. And so when you walk out of it, you have to be careful because you could get dizzy or you look like a red oyster, but it was an enjoyable bathtub that I soaked in every night. Each day after berry picking, sometimes I would help them load the truck. But after that's over, I'd go back to my cabin, and Kaz's two little girls at that time, Jane and Sheryl, would tiptoe up to my cabin, knock on the door, and say, "George, it's dinner time. It's time to eat." So I'd march back to the house with them, and Amy Kinoshita would make the greatest dinners. I enjoyed conversation with Kaz and his wife. The two girls were just small young things then, wouldn't talk a whole lot. The one incident that I remember is that, of course, we picked strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, young berries, and ended up with blackberries in late August. The incident that I remember is Jane and Sheryl were bringing to my cabin a very special shortcake that the mother had made. And so upon coming to the place just two steps before hitting the porch, they fell and the shortcake dropped on the ground. They didn't know what to do, whether to put it back on the paper plate, knock on my door, or just run back to their home. They elected to let me know. We picked up the cake, brushed off the gravel and dirt, did the best we can. I told them how much I enjoyed it. And I'm sure to this day, Jane and Sheryl still remember the shortcake incident at the Kaz Kinoshita farm. But Kaz was really just a fine individual that I got to know well. And later on, as we all know, gave so much of his time to the community to the Ikoi No Kai senior lunch program, highly respected, a real loss to the community here in 2004 as we lost one of our founding members in Gresham, berry farmer, but far more than that, a great human being in Kaz Kinoshita, but a person that I first met way back in Minidoka as a schoolteacher and a fellow who taught me how to stop nosebleeds.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MH: Can you think of any experiences that you had in camp?

GN: Well, as I look at the big picture, Minidoka really became a city, not a rich city, but a city with everything you really needed, from recreational things, we had our swimming hole. We had our garden with Japanese vegetables. We had the hospital, the dentist. We had our barber shops. We had the movie theater. We had talented people that would go around. We had wartime heroes that would come back. I remember they had a parade for one of the Niseis of the 442nd that came back that won the Medal of Honor, one of the few that won a Medal of Honor that was still living, and they had a parade that went through the Minidoka camp. And they had a sense of pride amongst all the families because all of us knew someone, a relative, a brother-in-law, a nephew, an uncle, a close friend, that had someone in their family that either was in the 442nd or perhaps might have even lost their life fighting for the United States. So they had that deep sense of patriotism, if you will, and loyalty that I think were displayed that even young people like myself can really understand, and it kind of came through during your several years there in Minidoka. I think I got to respect the American teachers that came there like Mrs. Kleinkauff and Mrs. Martin and some of the others. I can truly say that they were dedicated to do more than the call of duty. Yes, they taught the class, but they were always there to help us individually. Almost everyone in our class got to personally spend quality time with Mrs. Kleinkauff. Whether it's a personal problem, whether it's a concern at home, whether it's adjusting to something, whether it's an embarrassing moment in a classroom situation, whether it's a difficulty on certain lessons, she always seem to stay after school to give individual one-on-one or one-on-two help.

So there's a great deal to say about Minidoka, the team work, if you will, the organization. There was recreation. I remember my father in Block 34. One room was the go room, the Japanese chess game of go, the black and white that they put on the go board. They'd have go tournaments. He would spend time because now he had time. Yes, he worked in the kitchen, but that's just three meals a day. He had time in between. That's when he can go greasewood hunting. That's when he can play softball. That's when you he can learn go and master go. And you know, go is a simple game yet extremely complex. There is a handicap system. The person with the higher handicap can start with five pebbles already on the board or six or seven or eight depending on their handicap. And as the years went on, my dad's handicap got lower and lower, and he started to win some tournaments, and that's just one indication. My mother took sewing lessons. Before when we had the Pomona Hotel, she didn't have time. But now, she liked to sew, to create new things, new outfits. They didn't have a lot of material or probably used material that was brought in from nearby towns or charitable organizations, but she got to learn to sew. And there's a teacher Miss Kato and Miss Sasaki that taught the lessons, and my mother used to go there for quite some time on a weekly basis, got to sew an outfit for Mary, trousers for me. So she had new dimensions to her life added because of camp. Clearly, there were drawbacks, clearly there were challenges, but at the same time, I believe that the Isseis in particular have that unwavering determination to get up and really make the best of a situation or disadvantages that they had. And I did not realize all of that at the time, but as I grew older, I became more increasingly fond of that kind of spirit and character displayed during those tough times by the first generation pioneer Isseis.

MH: How much did you see of your parents in camp since, you know, you didn't eat in your own apartment. You had to go to a mess hall. How much time did you spend with your parents?

GN: Actually in our case, we spent quite a bit of time. You have the confines of one room, in our case, four of us in the one room. Yes, you actually go out to do your laundry in a different place. You go to the restroom, you go to the shower in sort of a common stall area. So yes, there are times. But when we go to see exhibits of greasewood or artists or performances or odori or some Japanese culturally related ikebana or flower arranging, I always went with my parents. I don't think it was because I had to go with them, but I probably knew that I might learn a little bit more because it was my dad that taught me about ikebana, the simplest having the heaven, earth, and man, the three parts to the simplest displaying or a branch or a flower. And those are little things that spending time hooking worm onto your thing as you cast out to catch a sucker in the Minidoka canal, quality time as I look at it now that I spent with my father and my mother, and the same holds true with my sister Mary and for the most of the other friends of ours. True, we spent our time with friends. We played our sports, we went to school, but I think that I had a chance to spend more time with my parents because no longer was my mother making beds in a hotel. No longer was my father waking up at 3:30 and 4 and going to the produce market to get vegetables and running a fruit and vegetable stand. So you tend to look at the bright side of things, and I think that for most families, we are not dissimilar. Most families probably found that, gee, their mother is around more, their father is home all the time or very often. And so with all the common things, yes, we ate together, we showered together, and things with our friends, but a lot of really quality time that we spent with our parents.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MH: You talked about a soldier coming back to camp and having a parade for him. Do you by any chance remember the Honor Board that was put up at camp?

GN: I only remember the Honor Board, the Honor Roll having just gone by it a time or two and having someone explain to me why those names are on there. The thing that I think impressed me was that the board was fairly sizeable, sizeable in terms of not dimension but sizeable in terms of names. We're not talking about a handful of names, but there were quite a few names on there. I did not understand them all. It might say PFC or it might say staff sergeant or might have a rank, but they all had Japanese surnames, family names. And you might recognize one or two names on there, but I don't remember it clearly only that I remember going past and by and having the that board explained to me once or twice.

MH: In a same tone, we also had guards who were American soldiers. Do you remember too much about the guards that guarded our camp?

GN: Yes. At Minidoka, in fact, prior to Minidoka, we of course had MP, Military Police, walking up and down the aisles of the train that took us from Portland, Oregon, all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho. When we first entered the camp, you kind of, everyone kind of looks around. Yes, you see the barracks. Yes, you see the sagebrush. But clearly, you see the barbwire. You see in our case fairly close to our block was a lookout post, and there were soldiers in there with rifles or with machine guns. And as you later walked around camp, you saw several of these lookout posts, and I don't know the timeframe, but they were there every day at the beginning. And as the months went by and as winter came and went, later on, those same outposts had no soldiers. And perhaps at the main gate when we would get a pass to go out during the last year, we would see active military personnel. But clearly as I reflect on it now, the security was more loose or more reasonable and giving the, all the Japanese and Japanese Americans greater freedom to feel that they're not every minute looked upon, but can roam around the camp freely, and perhaps if you go outside, go to the swimming hole, walk to the water tower, go after greasewood, and in some cases, they would get passes to even go to a nearby community. So the military personnel was very, very apparent, and I don't think anybody missed them at the beginning. But clearly after a point in time, they were no longer there.

MH: You talked about passes. Did you ever leave camp for, you know, a period of time, go to Twin Falls or wherever and why?

GN: The only time that I remember vividly is when they allowed a group of us -- and we were not officially a Boy Scout group, but we were very similar. We learned crafts and we earned points and we had almost like a merit badge system. But there was a group of us, and they allowed our group to go what's called the Sawtooth Mountains, not too far from Sun Valley which is quite adjacent to Ketchum, Idaho, quite adjacent to Twin Falls. We were gone for a week, and we stayed in different cabins, and I think that every young person that went there will never forget that because that was their time out of camp. We all formed little groups depending on the building. One was the fox group and one was the coyote group and one was the wolf group and we had competition. We made things, we learned how, we went on swims. It was just a total week of camp, a camp away from camp if you will, but it was something that you wouldn't envision certainly in 1942 or '3. But as we stayed there in '43, '44, and the powers to be evaluated that these are not dangerous people and there is good behavior and they are contributing in that there are no disturbances, they allowed certain groups to go out. Other groups, yes, they went to Twin Falls. They went to Eden. They went to Jerome. Some of them went and stayed out permanently because they went to Salt Lake or Denver or wherever. But that was a time that in my case, we got an official pass to go somewhere really for recreational purposes, but again, a time that I hadn't thought about for many, many years until now that really was a truly enjoyable time. We had I guess things that most camps do. You have games and you have plays and you act out things and you tell the best jokes you can, and we have sing fests and we have group prayers. It doesn't matter what your religion is, each in his own word and own way. We ate together, we climbed and hiked together, we swam together and a truly enjoyable time for us. But that was my only memorable time that I got a pass and really went far away from Minidoka.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MH: Did you go to church in camp?

GN: There were a number of churches there, the Shinto, the Buddhist, the Methodist. The Buddhist temple I went with because some of my friends went there. And because of my Christian or Catholic background up to that point, it was I found quite interesting, the eight fold paths of truth, a Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree and learning about some of their prayers, and when one passes on, getting a Buddhist name. And not to be a master of Buddhism but even as a child, going through some Buddhist classes and at least retaining some principles of the Buddhism tradition was very new to me. So there were Christians, Methodist services. There were konkosan, the Shinto services. There were a variety of churches. But as a family, we did not go every Sunday to church. We went if there might be a wedding. We went if there might be a funeral. And again, there might be a Shinto wedding or there might be a Christian in the Christian tradition wedding. They were never fancy. They couldn't be. The facilities weren't there. The amenities weren't there, but they happened. There were funerals that we attended. And again, I think the younger people like myself, we got introduced to what a pillow service is, what a wake service is, what a funeral is, in the Buddhism tradition, seven-day service, fourteen-day service, all the way to forty-nine-day service for seven straight weeks particularly if it's a relative or a close friend. A lot of I think Japanese cultures wrapped up in language, food, religion, and the opportunity to live in a Japanese or Japanese American community in Minidoka gave the young children exposure not technically to a religion but if you will to part of the culture. So we got acquainted with Buddhist bishops, with priests. We got, without even knowing it, I think we had education and religion just by direct or indirect participation with friends.

MH: Do you remember anything about the famous garden in camp? Do you recall that at all?

GN: No. The only garden that I recall were the actual vegetable producing gardens. My father used to have a great deal of interest in ikebana. He of course after the war had two hundred bonsai plants of his own. He had his own garden, Japanese garden. If you look in my backyard right now, it's pretty much a Japanese garden. So we had inherited this. So I know my father went throughout the camp and looked at, at first, there were no gardens, but after a year or two and I don't know how they did it because we had no forging of concrete of monuments or anything, but how they did it with stone and simulated dry streams, and my father would describe this sometime to us, but I personally never had the opportunity to see those gardens. I certainly would have liked to given an opportunity to maybe enhance our own garden here.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

GN: Well one of the elements of Minidoka that I recall well because of my sister Mary was the Norakura band which was basically a harmonic band. If you can imagine Niseis that had to pack bag and baggage only and go to the Portland Assembly Center and then on to Minidoka, you can't exactly carry a tuba or some huge instrument. And so most of them were able to bring their harmonica, and some of them were extremely talented, and a couple of them had small clarinets, and there was one used piano, and this little group could put out the best kind of music. And although the band was small and now we're going back to the 1940s and it was small instrument played by the mouth, still they can do their renditions of Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller and Harry James and all the rest of them. And I mention my sister because together with her best friend Betty Nakashimada, they became the two singers for the band. And I remember hours and hours where Mary and Betty would be practicing in our little apartment singing "Biru no mado" or "Shina no Yoru" or for the eighteenth time this hour, and I would just walk out. I could not stand it. But they were the two sisters, and they were asked to sing at many, many talent shows throughout the camp. Now, my sister Mary is not the most gregarious person. I can't believe that she was semi-professional performer in Minidoka, and I kid her about this even today. But she was a good singer. She had a good voice, Betty, and performed this duet. They became quite well known. Henry Matsunaga played the piano. But with a few instruments, they really performed throughout the whole internment camp. Beyond that of course, again an introduction to Japanese culture, we'd learned and hear instruments of their flute of their two string or three string instruments, hollow sounding bamboo things that produced the greatest sounds. We'd see dramatic plays and the clapping of two sticks. There's no curtain but that really opens the program or to close the program. The shibai may not be a grand kabuki presentation, but it was really well done. They put on the makeup as they, best they can, and people that were, you lived with in the same block, you didn't know it was them on stage. And so we would go to these, and I'm sure that there was probably a profound story behind all of this which I didn't even understand. I just laughed, looked at the costumes, looked at the white powdered faces, thought it was great, ate my popcorn, and came home again, but it was really entertainment. There was a lot of different entertainment. There was a lot of singers, very good singers. They had contests. I don't want to call them beauty contest, but I remember very well. Ise Azumano, Inuzaka at that time, was the sweetheart of Minidoka. So they had a variety of those kind of things going on. I remember Halloween going to the movie theater. This man from Seattle scared the wits out of us. He didn't have any props, but with a simple piece of Scotch tape on his face, able to make his eyeballs go every which way, sweat pouring down his brow, hair hanging down, pants loose, arms shaking, going up the aisle, and we climbing the walls to get away from the aisles, scared the daylights out of us. I'll never forget that performance. So there were simple things like that. There were more production things. We had a band, we had odori, we had contests, we had exhibits, we had sports. And so Minidoka really thrived as kind of a city built by Japanese and Japanese Americans that had, if you want to talk sports, if you want to talk entertainment, if you want to talk exercise, they used to have exercise classes. We used to get up early in the morning and someone in our block would lead us in calisthenics, and we'd learn different things, their version. Some older people would do their version of Tai Chi. We had so many things going on now that I reflect back on Minidoka. It's really the hazards of war, two nations at each other, the camp and other camps like it emerging because of that, but those of us in the camp trying to make the best of life and going on day to day. So it was really quite an experience.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MH: When did you actually move back to Portland, and why did you move back to Portland or your parents bring you back to Portland?

GN: Well ultimately, the United States government decided that they're going to close up the camps in 1945 I believe it was, and so, gradually, word got around that we could relocate to wherever, and a number of people, not many, but a number of people decided they're not going to come back to Portland, and they elected to go to Chicago or to Denver or to New York. But for the most part, most of us that came from Portland, originated here, decided that we're going to return back to Portland. It was interesting the days preceding our departure back which was about in September back to Portland. As you look through Block 34, several of the compartments were now empty. Oh, the Suzuki family left. Oh, the Maeda group's going to leave tomorrow, and the Muramatsu people went back to Milwaukie and so forth. And so one by one, families would depart. And so my father and my mother communicated with some friends back in Portland, in particular the other Nakata family that we were in partnership with, they were already back here. And not having a home to go to was a very serious dilemma for most families, and that's why Vanport and University Homes and Saint John Woods became a part of many, many Japanese and Japanese American families. They had no hotel, they had no grocery store, they had no business, they had no income, so they went to these places that were quickly put up for the Oregon shipyards on Swan Island. We elected to go to Saint John Woods because they had small little individual houses. But before we left, for about three weeks, we had smelt, smelt and the next meal was smelt and the meal after that was smelt. And you can tell me that you could fix smelt many different ways, but it's still smelt. And so I somehow got an aversion or almost a hatred for smelt. And upon returning to Portland, yes, there'd be a smelt run on the Sandy River or the Cowlitz River, and I'd go get them and give them all to my friends because I really didn't want anything to do with smelt for quite a few years. And one time someone asked me why is that and I had to tell them it was the last few days in Minidoka. If I didn't eat smelt, I didn't eat. And so I've had really a lifetime and a half quota of smelt already.

Anyhow, we came back by train, and I have to say that even as a young boy, it was a different trip. We knew our destination. It was going home, and we're going to go home to Portland. And the window shades were not down. We could see. And when you kind of roll through the Columbia River Gorge and you see the Columbia River, you know, it's impossible to describe because you kind of know that the Willamette River that as a young boy used to throw rocks into, that's connected to the Columbia, and you're just about home. So our train pulls up at the Union Station, and we get off the track. And to step foot on the ground in Portland, it was probably just an ordinary concrete slab or whatever that's near the railroad siding there in Union Station, but it's the inner feeling that goes through you that, gee, you're now home. You're back home, and so it was a tremendous feeling. We went out to the lobby. Frank and Harry Nakata were there to greet us, welcome us home. We went out to their car, not a new car, maybe a 1938 or '39 Chevrolet. But riding from there to Saint John Woods, just seeing the Willamette River again, seeing the Burnside Bridge, just is really a feeling that's probably beyond description. So we're home and we went out to Saint John Woods and found a house and very modest rent, just had a kitchen, bathroom, and a couple of bedrooms, but it was home, and we settled in.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

GN: The first thing my father and mother wanted to do was get us back into school. School had already started, so went up to school in Saint Johns called James John Grade School, elementary school, and I later found out that Betty Nakashimada, Grace Sakano, and we were the first Japanese ever to set foot in that grade school, quite an experience. Day one, I go into registration homeroom, and the teacher says, "This is George Nakata. He's new to our class. We all have two to a locker. Who in this room will be the locker partner of George?" And not one hand went up. Finally after seemingly silence forever, a hand pops up, Jean Styles. "I'd like to be George's partner," went out to the locker room, put my jacket and lunch box in there, and for forty years thereafter, I kept communication with Jean Styles. It was interesting on day two. I'm sitting in the back of the room, and there's a girl in the front looking in her pocket mirror back at me. I guess she wanted to see what a real Japanese looked like. Well, I had a number of other things happen, some with a teacher. But couple of my friends said, "George, do you ever play football?" I said, "Yes." "Well, we play the other home 'reg' room, and we play a game at noon out here at the playground. You can play?" "Yes." "Can you catch a ball?" "Yes." Luckily, I played quite a bit of football between Stafford School and Block 34. So I played, and maybe it's fate, catch the football, and you run it for a touchdown. We beat the other registration homeroom. Now I've gotten new friends. Now they think I'm okay. And so we're walking home to Saint John Woods to my house along with a couple of friends, and there's guys on the sidewalk saying, "Hey, you dirty Jap," and it's my, quote, "football friends" that go up to them and say, "What did you call my friend George?" And they became my friends, my protector, my classmates, and we became very, very close. So you encounter prejudice. Few days thereafter, we went to Rose City Cemetery. There was an infant son that my mother and father had, a little tombstone. We couldn't find it because many of the tombstones at Rose City were torn down. We couldn't find the location of our particular family tombstone. So you run into these kinds of things, little by little as you try to resettle back into Portland.

The rest of the school year went well with the one exception that after about one month, I was called into the principal's room, Mr. Brown, and after a lot of small talk of how things are going and how class is going and how Algebra is going and how this is going, he said, "Now, I'm going to ask you very bluntly, are you being treated okay?" And finally we got into the real meat of his purpose, that my teacher happened to be extremely prejudiced against Japanese and was mistreating me in every possible way she could, and so I never set foot in that classroom again, and I was transferred over to Miss Simmons' room, great teacher, most friendly, help me a lot. To this day, I remember this white haired lady as one of my fine teachers that I won't forget. So had that little incident happened there at James John School. Mary later on when I got and started in the eighth grade, she was of course into Roosevelt High School then.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

GN: We then uprooted from Saint John Woods and moved down to downtown Portland again, back to Northwest Portland, a different Northwest Portland. We went to Glisan Street and not Burnside Street. We went up to 7th, and my father got the Park Hotel right next to North Park Blocks across from the post office. So again he was in the hotel business, bit older, didn't have the steam heat. We had sawdust heat, but he made do with that. And then during the summertime, we would go pick berries, and my whole family went one time to pick beans, the LNH bean farm. We picked berries at the Urata Farm, at the Burg Farm, the Snyder Farm, and of course ended up at the Kaz Kinoshita Farm, so we did your share of berry picking. During that time, my father was trying to make ends meet, so he even had a part-time job making mashed potatoes at McByran's Restaurant, so he did an awful lot of things. And again I mention that he was an artist. He carved little birds out of wood. He carved a robin, a bluebird, a blue jay, a red cardinal, poke a wire to represent their leg, put a little twig on the bottom, put a safety pin on the back, became a beautiful lapel pin. The Naito family knew and heard of my dad's talent. They weren't as big as they are today in 2004. They had a tiny little retail shop on Morrison Street across from Oldes and Kings. They bought my father's little birds. Albert Naito, younger brother of Sam and Bill Naito, used to come over to our place about once a month to replenish his supply of little birds that my father made. And harking back to those days of Jiichan, my father, Shigeo Nakata, making mashed potatoes, picking beans, he was a fast boysenberry picker, making little birds, running a hotel, just to make ends meet. I'm really amazed at all the things he did because he wanted to buy another car, a 1950 Chevrolet from AB Smith Company on Burnside Street. He wanted to improve the hotel, the heating system. He wanted to take us on even short trips. No, we didn't travel then, but at least maybe go down to Salem, maybe get up to Seattle once a year. So he was ambitious; he was industrious; he was resourceful. We did a lot of things back then just to make ends meet.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

GN: So we operated that hotel for quite a few years, and I went to Couch School for the completion of the eighth grade. Mary went on to Lincoln High School. And together with a lot of friends in that area, again Yoji Matsushima was there and Ko Tambara was there and George Sumino, Elsie Morita now Elsie Onishi, the Kita girls, Alice and Jean Kita, we were all classmates, Kenny Tambara, Hank Sasaki. We all ended up there at Lincoln High School. And so there were quite a few of us Japanese Americans that went to Lincoln, and Yoji and I walked there every day from Northwest Portland all the way up there to Seventh and Market Street, and we kind of smiled and looked at Lincoln Hall of Portland State University. Our high school is now part of a university, and we kiddingly tell people, "Yeah, we went to a university for high school." But be that as it may, we go into that building, Yoji and I, and we can look back to our old high school days there at Lincoln High School. We played a lot, we gained a lot of friends, played sports. I played baseball. Ko and George Sumino, they played football. Roy Sumino was all-city. So we really had tough time for the parents, readjustment, the resettlement, of course losing everything they had, trying to make yourself financially solvent again, but finding time to, their going to a church in Milwaukie, Koyasan Church, and going to the Buddhist temple, going to the Nichiren Temple, going to the Shinto.

In my case, an unusual thing happened. We were either at Couch School or perhaps just entering Lincoln High School and a bunch of us playing in the North Park Blocks. A couple of older people came by, happened to be Kenji Onishi and Tsuguo Ikeda, "Well, what are you people doing?" Oh, we're just playing on the swing, playing mumbly peg which is a game you play with a pocket knife, shooting marbles, and they knew what we're doing. "You play for keeps or you play for funs?" "Oh, we're just playing for funs, but we don't like George's steel ball or marble." Oh, we'd be talking, and they'd say, "Well, we have an idea. There's a church up there close to 16th and Everett. It's called Epworth. We're trying to start a youth group, a Methodist fellowship. Why don't you come on up there maybe next Sunday evening, and we'll chat about it?" Well, we didn't have much to do. We went up there, and that was really the beginning to my knowledge of the MYF probably as it stands today. So Kenji and Tsuguo Ikeda were the impetus, the real force behind that movement, and we started to go to church, Francis Hayashi and his family Eugene and Donald Hayashi. We met a lot of people there, and other people started to come, and so our MYF grew and it became larger, and we went to our first conference in Seattle or Spokane or to Ontario. And I remember going and having if you will a hard discussion with Mrs. Hayashi that we ought to have a dance in the church basement which was something you just don't do, but finally she gave in, chaperoned and all. We had our jell-o dessert and ice cream. We played a little Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and we had a great time. I don't know whether they've ever had a dance in the Epworth church after that, but we were kind of pioneers so that I do know for a fact that they had one dance, the basement of the Epworth.

What was really perhaps more significant is the first Nikkei graduation ceremony was held in that very same basement, and it was very small just a simple little dinner, not a whole lot of scholarships, not a lot of awards, just MYF members graduating from high school. Yes, we had a couple that might have gone out of Jefferson or Washington High School but just a handful of us. And to some of us that were there on that first get together of the today the Nikkei Community Graduation Banquet which went on to bigger and greater things with many, many scholarships, Red Lion, Double Tree, Shilo, Multnomah Athletic Club, we kind of can look back and say, "Well, everything has a beginning. Sure good that Kenji and Tsuguo invited us up there, and one time somebody had the idea that well maybe we ought to have a little dinner for the graduates." It's come a long ways, but it's the history. And someday in 2025, somebody's probably going to wonder, how in the world did this graduation ceremony ever came to be. So that was an interesting part. We, of course, had friends that were Buddhist, friends that were Nichiren, friends that went to the Shinto.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

GN: So the Japanese community was still a rather close knit community. Most people knew other Japanese or Japanese Americans. Then emerged the golf club, the bowling league, and it was almost that you didn't know what fingers to put in a bowling ball, but eventually, you're going to be bowling because just about everybody bowled. Some people not because they liked bowling, but that way, they can meet their girlfriend or their boyfriend. So Friday night became bowling night for the Niseis, growing rapidly through the next decade or two to 24, 36 teams. I don't know, A league, B league, C league. Now it's unfortunately down again, but the golf club of course having the A flight, the B flight. Girls having their own bowling league on Wednesday nights, having a lot of sponsors. And again when the community pulls together and you have teams that represent Anzen, Azumanao Insurance, JK Kaeda, Franklin Market, Kern Park, you have all the Japanese businesses sponsoring teams. Again, sort of a demonstration of the closeness and the, you know, just helping each other attitude of the Nikkei community. All of us really eventually had a great time bowling. We used to have bowling tournaments, the scratch tournament, Fall and the handicap tournament in the spring. We all improved to some extent. At the end, we had a group of 200 average bowlers. Just like in golf, you start with 36, you get down to 20 handicap and hope to goodness you can get down to 10 handicap. Everybody tries to outdo the other in parts of getting a better putter, but it's really not that. We knew that, but kind of nice to keep up with the latest ball technology. So sports became part of the game. The judo tournaments, Jim Onchi and the judo grew. The life in general, the Niseis got into the work community. And as the Niseis says got into the work community, they became teachers and dentists and doctors and businessmen and business women, and they became outstanding in their own right. They became artists. Some of them became very well-known.

And so the Nikkei community began to spread its wings beyond the semi-revived Nihonmachi which was now quite limited. Anzen had a small shop, West Coast Orient, Tanaka, the Nisei Pool Hall, Foster Cafe, and just a handful of businesses were down there. It was not the thriving growing Japantown prewar prior to World War II. And so the Nikkei community started to spread out, grocery stores in North Portland, in Milwaukie and insurance businesses, insurance agents. And in a way, it was really the beginning of what there is today when there are outstanding cardiologists, outstanding educators, outstanding business professionals, of lawyers. People that are on every walk of commercial life in the Portland Metro area, you will find in the Nikkei community. It was not like that during the early years. But during the 1950s and '60s, you can see this emerging. And so they spread their wings and new businesses started to pop up.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

GN: And as I went through Lincoln High School, it was an enjoyable time for me and work ethic that perhaps my father and mother passed down to us. I decided as a freshman that I was going to work after school without bothering my grades or my homework, and I found a company on Northwest Davis Street called Northwest Trading Company, and the proprietor was Sam Naito, and it was a very, very small business. Hannah was the secretary, Tom Sono, and one salesman, Mr. Nichols. That was the beginning of Northwest Trading Company affiliated with the Naito Gift Shop on Southwest Morrison Street. We used to bring in, Northwest Trading Company, big barrels of bone china from England. I used to open the barrel, get out all the wooden excelsior and carefully unload cups and saucers, tea pots, fine bone china from England. They used to bring in things from Japan. But at that time, the workmanship was not there because we're talking the late 1940s. Yes, there was some defective things. The painting wasn't good, the gold would be scratched off, but gradually, things improved and Northwest Trading Company grew, and they hired more people there. And so later on as more Niseis and people from Japan: Sam Watanabe, Henry Ueno, George Hamada, we ended up side by side, packing orders. We knew how to put saucers and cup and saucers into a box, send it parcel post, put it to zone eight which was New England and get it there without breaking anything. So we learned all about packing orders, mailing, calling the truck line, shipping things out, gained a lot of friends by working at Northwest Trading Company which later on moved its office and its warehouse to Northwest Portland up on 12th Street. That was prior to a real growth expansion when they moved to the old Rexall Drug Building in the Import Plaza back down there on First and Couch and opened up a series of retail stores, Made in Oregon. So during the early years, we had an opportunity to work for Sam, and later on Bill came back from University of Chicago. So I guess in fairness I could say that I was one of the very, very early ones that worked for Sam Naito. So we've known each other for many, many years, since the late 1940s, right after he graduated from the University of Oregon, and of course the business has come a long ways since. During that time, I actually sometimes had two jobs. Since our hotel, Park Hotel, was located on Broadway and Glisan Street, we were right in front of the main post office for Portland. So during the Christmas rush, I would take on an extra job, work because school was out, college was out. I would work at the post office and work at at that time called Norcrest China. They changed the name from Northwest Trading Company. So from about eight to five, I work with Norcrest China, go home, grab a bite to eat. At 6 o'clock to 2 o'clock, I worked at the post office for the extra Christmas cards and the Christmas packages. And when you're young, I guess you could do that, and you sleep from 3 o'clock to about 7 o'clock in the morning, and you can go another sixteen hours of work. But it was an interesting time, and I don't mean to say that I was alone. I had other friends that had many jobs.

MH: Now, let me, why did you have to have these many jobs?

GN: One of the reasons that I had the jobs was not actually because of necessity. By that time, the hotel was going fairly well and our hotel, the Park Hotel, by the way, just to explain that we had a lot of Japanese tenants. We had the Itoyama family there. We had the Kasubuchi family there. We had, oh gosh, the Sakai family there. Shig Oka and his family lived there. The Takaya family, Ted Takaya and his family were there. We had many Japanese families because Park Hotel was housekeeping. You can cook and you can do things in your room, and so the Japanese families loved it there, very reasonable rent. They can cook there, it was convenient, they can go to school. They can kind of be with other Japanese folks, and so our customers were very steady. They stayed there and paid by the month, not by the day, not by the week. So the income was relatively stable for my parents. So again getting back to part-time jobs, it was more knowing that I wanted and was determined to go to college. I was determined to go to university, and my parents, like other Niseis, wanted the next generation to do better than themselves. And so knowing that in relative terms, it takes some money to go to whether it's a private university or a state college, I was beginning to save berry picking money, bean picking money, post office money, or working for Norcrest China. As it turned out, Mary happens to be, shedding modesty aside, she only got A's at Lincoln High School, and she could have had almost any scholarship she wanted, and yet she elected to go to business college. But she did get help. She did very well there. I also received some scholarship assistance, but you never count on those kinds of things. I did not really want to depend on my parents. They supported me all through these difficult and challenging years, and I wanted to put myself through college. So that was one of the reasons that I worked rather hard and sometimes holding down two jobs as well as doing my homework at Lincoln High School and so forth, and it turned out quite well actually.

I must add that after two years of university work, I, at that time you could call for the draft. It's not volunteering because that was three years. You could ask the draft board, "Draft me now. I want to get my two years obligation over with now," so I elected to call for the draft after two years. And another thing that motivated me was they pass something called the GI Bill. Knowing that that next two years of college after I finished my two-year military obligation, I would have that at my disposal was another factor that led me to that decision. So it happened that Joe Knapp and I went in together, same day, January 23, 1953, into the service, and the Girls' Club called Sorells put on a farewell party for us, and I never saw Joe thereafter. He went to Fort Lewis and I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He later went to Fort Bliss, Texas, spent his whole two years there. I went to transportation school at Fort Carson, Colorado, then went to Europe, got cleared for top secret, got to tour all of Europe in a military uniform, so I consider myself, very, very lucky, first of all, calling for the draft one of my better lucky decisions; and secondly, the route that I took going to Europe and seeing a lot of that area of the world really on Uncle Sam.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

GN: So those were some of the activities that we went through during days that we lived in Park Hotel and went to Lincoln High School and learned how to bowl and learned how to golf and joined the Nisei golf club and joined the Nisei bowling league and got my average from 150 up to 180 and long since retired but really enjoyed the camaraderie and the friendship every Friday night. We had Azumano partly as a sponsor. We had Kitas as a sponsor, and you really get to know your teammates, and you bowl in tournaments and really were extremely fun days. I remember those days very well. Mary went on to business school and graduated really in record time, I think half the time that it's supposed to take, and she got a nice job at a place called Twin Harbors Lumber Company, and every Christmas get a bonus and buy everybody a gift. And we used to always look forward to Mary coming home just before Christmas because she would not be able to carry everything back with her, just a very generous sister. And one of my recalls, to jump forward a little bit, was when my sister Michiko May came back from Japan, and her English was rusty, so she stayed with the Wessinger family had a Blitz Weinhard, lived with them except for weekends, and I'd go up and pick her up on weekends, come back. But that way, she can accelerate her English speaking ability. But we became close. At first, you know, it's difficult because you haven't seen your own sister for all these many years, but took English as a second language. She went on to White Stag just as a regular seamstress and then moved up to become the head design seamstress in their new style department. So a lot of the new things that White Stag was putting out was really designed and sewn by my sister Michiko, so she did quite well. But a week after she came back from Japan, I remember taking her downtown to Littman's and Learners and some place and buying her probably maybe her first outfit upon returning back to the United States of America and to Portland, and she became overcome that her little kid brother used his berry picking money to buy her this new outfit. And we all have stories like that, but some a bit touching, but they stick with you, and they'll probably stay with everyone for quite a long time. We worked hard. I helped my dad shovel sawdust. The great big iron things that you see on some sidewalks still in downtown Portland, you bring those up and the dump truck comes and puts on this three units of sawdust, and it's really quite a job to shovel in sawdust and shovel it into the furnace. You know, I was a skinny weak kid then, still am kind of a fat weak kid now; but nevertheless, it was hard for me to lift those great big sawdust shovels, but we did it. Sometimes even my mother helped. My sister Mary helped. And you know, when you witness things like it, it kind of stays with you. You know, a family that shovels sawdust together, you stay together kind of thing, and so we have had those experiences there.

As the years went by, we got a television set, and we bought the 1950 Chevrolet, and so things got better, and I think it became a little bit more relaxed for my mother and my father. I recall about in 1952, they decided that Japanese nationals could become American citizens, and there was kind of a rule that if you're fifty years old by that time, you could take it in Japanese. But if you're not fifty, you got to take it in English. My father was fifty years old, so he could take it in Japanese. My mother had to study it in English. Now as a person that studied Spanish and Latin in school, lived in Germany and tried to learn German, studied a bit of Japanese and traveled many times to China, foreign language is extremely difficult. But if you're forty-six or forty-seven years old and you're fluent in Japanese, Okayama-ben, and suddenly you have to learn the age minimum for U.S. president or how long does House of Representatives serves or the governor's race or what the Bill of Rights are in English. How challenging that must have been for my mother and other Issei ladies. And I remember going to a ceremony I believe it was in 1953 where a whole group of Isseis received their citizenship. Now, my mother and father never failed to vote. They studied the voter's pamphlet more than I did because English was difficult for them, and I suppose it's kind of like an Olympic athlete on the platform hearing the Star Spangled Banner because when they heard the Star Spangled Banner, when they heard the Pledge of Allegiance, when they saw the American flag, they told me how much it really meant to them, and I guess that's really hard for us to fathom. But when you work that diligently to become a citizen, how you cherish, how you value that right. So it was interesting to discuss politics with them and political candidates and the platform of the Republicans and the Democrats and some of the major issues of the day, but they never ever failed to vote. So I recall that very distinctly, and I'm sure that other Nisei, Isseis, and their Nisei offsprings also had similar experiences of a foreign born person pulling up roots, coming to a strange country with strange food, strange language, strange culture, and ultimately becoming a loyal dedicated citizen of that country. So witnessing that certainly did teach me a lesson in terms of what it means to be a citizen of the United States.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

MH: I'm going to take you back again. You talked about your brother and your sister, older brother and sister being in Japan during the war, do they ever talk about it? Did you get any sense of how they felt while they were back there?

GN: My brother Kikuo and my sister Michiko were really unfortunate victims of circumstances, having gone to principally visit their grandparents, learn some Japanese, learn from culture and really to come back to America, but tensions grew and the outbreak of World War II, suddenly it's 1941, and they can't come back. And so they grow up, go to Japanese school, learn the language and culture. My sister May ends up working at an airplane factory after high school. My brother Kikuo Kay toward the end got drafted into the Japanese army. The war thereafter ended soon thereafter. He I guess had kind of a private entrepreneurship also in him like my father, and he started a doughnut shop of all things which is western food basically, but if you will, he started a doughnut snack shop in Okayama. And because he was in the army, he could not return to the United States as early as my sister Michiko. She came back first, and he came back about a year or so later. But their days were not easy. Sure, at times they wondered why is it that I'm over here and Mary and George, Sumiko and Yoshio, are back with the parents. Why is it that we can't return? Even after the war, several years go by, and they can't come back. So I'm sure that weighed heavily on them. But I sensed no feeling of bitterness. They were very close to the grandparents, Kitano Nakata and Okayama and cousins. And when Keiko and I went to visit, meeting our cousin there in Okayama, they asked about how's Kikuo, how's Michiko. And we had some pictures and letters from them eventually, but I feel that they were not easy times for them, for anyone that is not with their mother and father during such formidable years such important years. But they did well in school. I understand May did, Michiko did very well. And they came back, and I must say, really adjusted, learning the language, the culture, gaining friends here, being active quite well. They did not ever belabor or dwell on difficult days during the war. But no doubt when a small country like Japan country of island, size of Montana, California, is bombed that heavily, it's got to have its toll, and certainly they knew people that passed away from the war itself in action or from bombs or other tragic situations. But yes, they mentioned some big things, you know. Yes, they finished school. Yes, they worked in factories. Yes, he was drafted, but nothing in really finite detail. And probably like some others, it's not really a pleasant chapter in their life and not something that gives them pleasure to talk about. It's probably part of the past and maybe left best that way. But some essential things they certainly shared with us. And as I mentioned, Michiko passed away a year or two ago and Kikuo Kay is still, two fine children living up in the Gateway area of Portland, so he's doing fine.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

MH: You said you went into the service and came back and went to school on the GI Bill, is that right?

GN: Yes.

MH: College. So what university did you graduate from and what field did you get into?

GN: I went to Lewis and Clark College and graduated there in 1957, and I enjoyed Lewis and Clark very much. I was not a good soldier. I was not built to be a soldier. The truth is I disliked the army, to put it mildly. And when I was drafted in 1953, I found an ARSR regulation, army regulation standard operating procedure that stated if you can register into an accredited university one day after the 21st month, you can be discharged honorably from the U.S. Army. Well, since I went in September 23, 1953, I looked at July 22, 1955, and I targeted a date, rather June, and I targeted that date, and I found that Portland State University summer session starts on that day, so I sent in an application. I was accepted. And rather than travel back on a tramp boat, troop ship, liberty ship taking nine and a half days to cross the Atlantic and half the people getting sick, they wanted to keep me there in Studgaard until a day or so before my discharge, so I was flown from Studgaard, Germany, all the way back to SeaTac, discharged at Fort Lewis, came back to Portland, got off, went to register at Portland State University. So it was quite an interesting way of shortening my tenure of service in the military. Some people may disagree with my attitude, but when I was taking basic at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and one day in our Barrack Company C, we had to all just put the number of educational years that we have had, and I looked at that list and I happened to have the biggest number. The fellow below me went through the third grade. The fellow on the next bunk went through the sixth grade, and there were racial fights between the blacks and the whites. And my sergeant, first question he asked me was, "Soldier, do you speak English?" And I was pulled out of ranks by the company commander during dress rehearsal days, and he pulled me out. And in his thickest Southern drawl, he asked me whether I knew English. I saluted and told him, "Yes, sir." And as I ran back to my ranks, I thought to myself, "Gosh, Colonel, do you speak English?" So having gone through all of that and all the jokes that they played, I went to Germany, and fortunately after two weeks of doing nothing because they wanted to clear me for what's called confidential, secret and top secret, I was cleared for top secret, and I was designing escape routes for the Fifth Army, Sixth Army, in case of conflict with the Soviet Union at that time. So I was drawing all these routes and the bird colonel would go out with these charts and brief the troops out on the lines, and I have to say that it was a very nice position. On these charts because of a little bit of art talent, the colonel, bird colonel, really enjoyed it when I drew a little truck and drew a little tank and drew some troops down here and kind of dressed up his, his chart looked better than any other colonels' charts when they made the briefing, and so he was the one that kept me there until the very last minute and flew me back. I had the low rank of corporal and no bitterness, but did my twenty-one months, came back, went to summer school at Portland State University, not any heavy subjects but taking enough hours to make it legal and then going back to Lewis and Clark. I took management, took marketing. And unusual as it sounds, I got into marketing, but I got into it in the international way, global marketing, exporting/importing, foreign trade. That's what I really got into. But the groundwork that I learned there in terms of marketing and advertising and communications and all the things that are part of the marketing curriculum I think served me well. I graduated with honors, made the Dean's List. The last year there, I was on scholarship from Lewis and Clark. But basically, the question of the GI Bill at that time really paid for even a private institution like Lewis and Clark College. So really the tuition, the lab fees, the books, all of those things were almost completely paid for by the GI Bill. After that, I did go on to the International Marketing School down in Phoenix for a short time. But really, my formal education at the university level was done here in Portland at Lewis and Clark College.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

MH: When you completed your degree, where did you find work?

GN: Well, I was very lucky, can detail a few things out later, but it was just a matter of days that I joined Mitsui and Company, one of the foremost [inaudible] of Japan at that time known was Daichi Trading Company. So I don't joined Mitsui and Company, learned all the basics of international trade, what a irrevocable letter of credit is, what an ocean bill of lading is, what export financing is and later moved into trading, entire cargos of grain, entire cargos of peas and lentils and beans, wheat flour, and trading to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, some to the Philippines, some to Malaysia, and so really am grateful and thankful for the real in the trenches work that I believe is necessary to truly understand international trade. I don't mean to say that it's extremely complex, but there are some nuances, different cultures you're dealing with, business practices differ. Decisions by consensus in Japan is different than here. The titles in Japan, making my first trip in 1965 and making ninety-five trips there ever since, going to many businesses and learning, going first to Mitsui which was then Daichi in Tokyo and seeing people that I was sending teletypes to. We didn't have e-mail; we didn't have faxes then but teletypes on tape, and meeting some of the managers there and people addressing each other by title, never Mr. Sato, Mr. Hayashi, Mr. Yamamoto. It was always Bucho-san, Kacho-san, Sacho-san. It was always department head, manager, and to learn that from the ground up and going on the ship to learn what the lower hold on hatch number five is all about and how many knots they travel and what it costs and how they pour grain and what happens to it in Japan. And I remember the first cargo of Austrian winter peas from Idaho that I shipped to Japan way back when Japan had an azuki bean failure on the island of Hokkaido and all the anko that that country makes and eats in manju and you name it, they had to mix with twenty percent Austrian winter peas from Idaho. So I went over to Japan and went to some bean paste manufacturers to see the end use of some of the products that we shipped from Lewiston, Idaho, or from Nez Perce or from Rosalia and seeing it mixed with better grade azuki beans and making anko with it and then shipping some baby lima beans over there to make the white anko. I was so lucky to be on the ground floor of some of that to learn that kind of trade, to learn import and export from Mitsui which is really one of the foremost trading companies in Japan.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

GN: After Lewis and Clark and joining, having the good fortune a few days after to join that company and to learn, to get my ground, just the well grounded and the fundamentals of international trade was invaluable to me as I later joined Pacific Supply Cooperative, became their marketing manager, and then joined the Port of Portland Far East. Those kind of things may not have ever happened unless I had that kind of background if you will that, in any profession. I think sure, the bank president was once the runner for the mailroom, a kind of story, but there's some truth to that, that learning from the bottom up is a great way to go, and so spent a number of years there at Mitsui and got my first taste of Japan. And although it doesn't exist today, Pacific Supply Cooperative is an agriculture regional cooperative that has branches all over the Northwest. Pendleton Grain Growers is a member of Pacific Supply. The cooperative in Hillsboro is a member, McMinnville, Klamath Falls, on and on, had 108 members all over the Northwest, headquarters in Portland. And I first started off as the export manager, moved into the marketing manager. And so with that position, we imported fertilizer, uria. We imported steel fence posts, bailing twine, barbed wire, and we exported, wheat, grass seed, peas, mint oil. And here in the Northwest, perhaps not everybody is aware, we have some of the finest spearmint and peppermint grown in America which is needed for soap, toothpaste, cologne, whatever, and big companies like Lotte and others would come here to buy those products. We would have grass seed and any golfer knows about bent grass, but a lot of them don't know that most of the finest bent grass of the world is produced in Stayton and Silverton, Oregon. So Highland bent grass, Astoria bent grass, you know, they used to call it 95/90 purely germination numbers, don't want to get too technical, but the finest grass seed bent grass of the world is grown here in Oregon and we at Pacific Supply shipped these over to Japan on a very regular basis, some of the rye grass going over to the pastures and meadows for feeding purposes. They'll go to Hokuran which is a big cooperative in Hokkaido. They go to Taki Seed down there in Kyoto. They go to Sakata Seed in Okayama and had the chance to visit some of these ultimate buyers and had this unique opportunity to see a product in the field being harvested, bagged, brought to the dock, loaded on board a ship, and then seeing it over there in Asia. It's really, you kind of complete the circle by seeing sort of the end use of some of these products. We brought over two executives from the Hokkaido cooperative when I was with Pacific Supply. They wanted to improve their heifer or their herds and wanted to get a breeding bull, Angus bull, so I remember spending two weeks going all over the Northwest and looking at prize Angus bulls, and that industry works. Many of the prize bulls here are 1/8 owned by this person and 1/16 owned, but this cooperative in Hokkaido wanted to buy this extremely to me expensive sire bull to impregnate their herd and they did. And so I learned a little bit about livestock, learned a little bit about their beef in Japan which at that time, good beef sold, converted to U.S. dollars sold for about $35 a pound, some of the cut choices, maybe now it's more. But things that maybe at Fred Meyers, Albertsons, and supermarkets here might be $2, $3 a pound were $35 a pound, same cut of meat.

So you see that over there, and you really, I really felt my profession of being in international trade was really not a job but it was more of a passion. I enjoyed it. I was interested in it. I was fascinated by it, and I was really thrilled by the opportunity to go to Kyushu and go to Hokkaido, not only to Sapporo but Obihiro and Wataru and some other places and to really see how their azuki bean grows, to see how their grass seed grows. And one of the things that I, even to this day think about, is there is the breeding of grass seed where you exchange data, and the Japanese of Hokkaido were fascinated by a particular red clover that they call Sapporo red clover. They only had a few bits and pieces of seed. We managed to bring that over to America. We got a grower, and then we multiplied that seed and reshipped it back to Hokkaido, so they then today have acres or hectares and hectares of Sapporo red clover seed all over Hokkaido, and we kind of pioneered that effort. And after the Angus bull and the Sapporo red clover and a few other things, was awarded the Presidential E Award for excellence in exporting. It's an award that is given by the President of the United States to certain individuals and certain companies that have done something unique or something different because America was always striving to have a good balance of trade to export more than they import. And so strategies and programs that might export more grass seed or any products here in the Northwest, be it wheat or be it barley or be peppermint, be it peas, be it beans, we continued to expand on that.

My career at Pacific Supply was quite interesting. I went to Rotterdam quite often and opened up a Rotterdam office, and this great Dutchman, Erin Vondenauker, we became very good friends, and he spoke many, many languages. But eventually, we had agents all over, seventeen of them, some in Europe, in Venezuela, Lima, Peru, Taipei, Kao Shung, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Korea, and so traveled to many of these places. It was a very, very interesting experience. Most of the time, I traveled alone, really, and there were times that I needed a translator, traveled on some trade missions, but I was not too fond of trade missions, went over with Governor McCall and Jack Myer and John Fulton, and there were a lot of ceremonies and lot of speech giving but not a whole lot of business in my opinion, and so I preferred really to go there and conduct business with our real customers, so that's what I preferred to do. May or may not have been the right choice at the time, but I enjoyed it and enjoyed my days at Pacific Supply Cooperative. So that kind of crosses over between my personal life and professional life because with that got very active in international activities and became acquainted with the international bankers and international lawyers, and just like any person, you kind of gravitate to that area of commerce, and I chaired the World Trade Committee of the Portland Chamber and became the World Trade Person of the Year, one year. You know, some of these kind of things that if you're around long enough, you kind of fall into some of these awards by accident.

So I enjoyed a lot of the people that I met and the opportunity to be a bridge between cultures. They do business differently in each country. In Taiwan, you're going to meet Mrs. Wong and sometime relatives that are going to come to a business dinner with you. In Japan, you meet with the business person and you never meet the family. In Korea, it was different. In Hong Kong, I stayed with families, and in each place, it was just so different. China, it was right after normalization and now I'm with the Port of Portland and it's 1979, and I'm there right after Jimmy Carter and the normalization relationships with the PRC, not too many Americans have they ever seen. And here is an American that looks like a Japanese stepping off the plane in Beijing. It was a time that you cannot go to China without a host, and so my visa was approved by a host. My hotel was arranged by a host. So I met with China Ocean Shipping Company. I met with the minister that's the head of the ports of all of China, great opportunity to learn all about China. And you learn that when they take you to the Great Wall, they want to show you their rich history, their four thousand years of history.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

GN: I joined the Port of Portland after Pacific Supply Cooperative, and I took on the position of deputy director of trade development which was quite a few words that really meant working closely with importers and exporters of this area that were quite unfamiliar with the port. Just very briefly, the Port of Portland operates in the tri-county area. They have four airports, they have five terminals, they have thirty berths. They own the most industrial acreage in the metropolitan Portland area which most people don't understand, so it's a very interesting organization really, and port authorities differ. New York and New Jersey are together, the New York/New Jersey Port Authority. In Los Angeles, it's run by the city. SeaTac is run by the Port Authority. But Portland and Oregon, all the little ports of Oregon have their own port and under the state. The Port of Portland is independent of all those other ports in Oregon and really is operated by nine member commission appointed by the governor of the State of Oregon, and these commissioners meet once a month, and they have approximately a 700-member staff headed by an executive director. For the most part, I was general manager of marketing, and then it's a slight change, but I was general manager of Far East business, and then I was general manager of international business. And the reason for those titles is the words are not that important, but there was a time when I worked principally with most of the larger importers and exporters of this area. And then I worked with the steamship carriers that are headquartered in the Far East such as in Japan, you have carriers such as NYK, Mitsuyo-K, K-Line and others. In Korea, you have Hyundai and Hyonjin. The Evergreen Line that you see containers running around Portland, OOCL in Hong Kong, Cosco out of Beijing, I worked with those carriers. But later on during the height of the bubble expansion of Japan, Japan was looking to the United States for investment and companies like Sony, like Sharp, like NEC, like Epson, Fujitsu, and a host of others wanted to possibly locate a plant here in Oregon. So as general manager of international business, my responsibility was to try to go to those companies and attract them here to Oregon. Shikishima Baking Company of Nagoya, Japan, is the second biggest bakery in Japan. They now have a very large plant here in North Portland. They are the ones that make Pasco bread and the anpan that you see around some of the stores. Kanto chemical is here. Marubeni operates Columbia Grain, a lot of Japanese trading companies, NEC out of Hillsboro, Fujitsu, Toshiba Ceramics, Toyo Tanso which is a carbon company making graphite carbon, Kambara, which is a photo album company in Tualatin. In the Shokokai business, Japanese Business Association, they have approximately seventy companies. In the height of their boom period, there were over 135 Japanese entities in and around Portland, and so I had a very interesting and challenging position of opportunity to go to NEC, to go to Epson and to go to baking companies and go to Ajinomoto that's here now with us with a plant and a chance with meet with a lot of these companies and help them make a comparison, a compare land costs in Oregon compared to California or Colorado, the energy costs of Oregon compared, Portland compared to Seattle or Tacoma, cost of water, cost of labor, how about taxes, property tax, sales tax. So these are major plant location decisions by multi-national companies, sometimes with plants all over the world, and we were successful in getting quite a few of those companies. The recent exodus of these companies is not Oregon's fault. It was principally Japan with a prolonged recession since 1991.

So at the Port of Portland, I feel very fortunate in that I had an opportunity to have several positions working with importers, exporters, working with automobile companies, working with steamship companies, and for a brief period, even working with airlines. I did go to Zen Nikku which is ANA JAL. I went to Singapore Airlines, went to Korean Airlines, went to Evergreen Airlines in Taipei and Cafe Pacific. It's rather challenging and without getting too technical, Portland is a river port. Others on the coast are deep water ports to begin with. They sit on the ocean. There is no draft worries. They got deep draft. Other places have population. Portland is a small base. We do not consume a lot of television sets and VCRs and DVDs as does Los Angeles by itself. So comparing all of these things, and we have 12 million passengers that go through PDX, not 25 million like some other airports. So it's very challenging and a real marketing thing to strategize and try to get steamship companies to call Portland, to get airlines to have direct service here. And as United tried and as Delta tried and now is Northwest, it's challenging for them to have direct service from PDX to Narita as an example. So some of us associated with the Port of Portland get involved in quite a few diverse things. And when it comes to international business, the Port of Portland is international in its business. It doesn't sell widgets to Portlanders. It's doing foreign trade. And so being fortunate enough to be in the mainstream of that trade and going to headquarters of Evergreen in Taipei or to Beijing and meeting with China Ocean Shipping Company or meeting with the high tech semi-conductor company outside of Tokyo really was an interesting experience for me. Sometimes, I worried about my family because all of this pre trip arranging and the post trip follow ups. There were times that I took six trips a year to Japan. For the most part, it was about three. But starting in '65 and until I started my own business in '95, there were three, four, five trips a year that I took and continued to take. And no question, they are enjoyable. You eat good Japanese food, and you meet great people, but also, it's work. There's the time difference. There's the jet lag. I traveled between countries always on the weekends. I use Saturday and Sunday to get from Seoul, Korea, down to Singapore so Monday morning you're ready to go to Singapore Airlines or other clients. And when you do that, then you have a full two-week trip with thirty appointments and you go to five countries. It's, it kind of wears on you, and it wears on your family. And Keiko was just a yeoman's support taking care of children and the yard work and the changing of the oil or whatever. So whenever I was abroad, I used to make sure I send a fax or send a message or send a postcard to my three children. And whenever I'm home, I made sure that I attended their soccer game and speech contests and plays at Ridgewood grade school or what have you. But we all go through these, but it was quite an interesting career that I had at Pacific Supply Cooperative.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

MH: You know you mentioned you kind of assimilated the Japanese business culture because it's so much different than what we have here, and you have, I don't know whether you took it upon yourself but at least help teach the people here what to expect when they go to Japan or when a Japanese person came here. How did that come about?

GN: Well, being lucky with broad exposure to Far East cultures and having the opportunity on this side to work with Japanese nationals that are stationed here or with Americans that want to do business in the Far East, through the several decades of being in this business, as dumb as I am, I'm able to pick up a few things, so you learn the do's and don'ts. In fact, I ended up teaching a class at Portland State University night school on international business and export marketing for several terms and several years down there and also was a guest instructor at Linnfield at their Portland campus if you will on that subject. And perhaps, part of it is where an American company really wants to know how to deal with Asians or Japanese specifically. They're hungry for information, but they really don't know how. And so since 1995 when I started my own company, I've gone into companies to try to give them a briefing starting with the very beginning. How do you accept the business card? What do you do with the business card? You stick it in your pocket? You don't write on it. There's a lot of things, and so not to get into every detail in particular, but the way you address people, the way you sit. In the Japanese formal business meetings, they sit by rank. In China, you sit by rank. And so there are certain physical positions that are correct in a conference room or in a smaller business meeting room. And so things of that nature, there are some things in Japan that after quite a time, you'll begin to know. You'll know that the Mitsubishi man does not drink Asahi or Sapporo beer. They don't support that company. You'll find that Mitsui don't drink Kirin beer. That's how competitive it is. There are cadence of groups, groups of companies that work with each other, groups of companies that have nothing to do with each other. When I dealt with Nishin Flour Mills, I had to know that Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Marubeni worked with that company. But when I went to Nippon Flour Mill, it was Mitsui and it was Itochu and it was Nisho Iwai that worked with that company, so you have these different cadence of groups. Japan is a country of tradition of long rich history, decision by consensus. So in the United States, you might want to meet the president and the chairman of the board, CEO, great. But in Japan, why don't you try meeting with the manager and the general manager and maybe the assistant managing director first and build up the groundswell of support so that they can put their hanko or they can put their approval on coming to your port or doing business with you. You're going to the very top will get you nice conversation. Well, have you been Japan, first time to Mount Fuji, how do you like Ginza and a few other, you know, did you try sashimi yet, nothing of real value. So you learn a lot of these things through years of experience that in cases where I'm doing advisory work for a U.S. company, there's how to pronounce Japanese names, a little bit about Japanese history, a little bit about contrast between Japan and here, the density of people, their expression, their language. The American language does not have too many words of feeling, deep, dedicated words of feeling. The Japanese language is full of them, not translatable and how to address people, how to follow up, how not to offend, how about dinnertime conversation. You make sure that you pour that beer and fill up that person's glass when you're at dinner. Well, most people don't think about that because you don't do that here in generally. You always do that in Japan. So there's a lot of nuances. There's a lot of ways of doing business. And even if you're not fluent in Japanese, learn a few words. Learn at least how to say, "Pleasure to meet you," learn at least to say, "Thank you." And sometimes the aggressive Yankee hard sell is not the way to go. You don't whip out your order pad. I remember in Beijing, a gentleman was telling me that he made seven trips to the Great Wall with an executive from Boeing, went up, sipped tea, looked at the Great Wall, talked about things, came back down, nothing happened. But on the drive back on the seventh trip, "By the way, we're buying twenty airplanes from you," and that's how things go. If this man was pushy, it wouldn't have been. But he went to the Temple of Heaven and he went to the Ming's Tomb and he enjoyed their culture. He knew when to give a toast, he knew when not to drink too much, he knew he wasn't supposed to talk too much about Taiwan, he knew all the nuances because as the Chinese gentleman told me, "You're with the Port of Portland. Nakata-san, let's first become friends, then let's later talk about business." That phrase stuck with me to this day. You don't push; you bide your time. Business will come if it's worth it.

So Taiwan is different, Hong Kong is different, each country different, and don't want to dwell on each, but in its own way, so many positive things about each country over there, Singapore so clean, very humid, Bangkok so different, Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. Oh gosh, tapping a rubber tree, I've never done that in my life until I went to Malaysia. Singapore, eating adobo and shipping Pacific Northwest beans down there, and again a different way of doing business. The Far East, it's a big area. I'm still learning, by no means have mastered anything. But through the years, I've enjoyed trying to pick up a little bit of knowledge of Korea and Japan and China and Taiwan and the Far East, so professional career has been quite interesting. Days with Pacific Supply and the time with the Port of Portland, going over, sometimes with coworkers, sometimes, most times by myself, sometimes by necessity with a politician. There was a Punchgreen, Ellen Punchgreen that headed up the Benson Glass Company here that became head of the Federal Maritime Commission that we went to Beijing with, treated like royalty and stayed in the very hotel room that Henry Kissinger stayed in in Shanghai and went to the little place that the gang of four were held at. So you learn things of history. You learn about China. I got to know China so well that this one fellow said, told me all about the rice ration, and he had a second child, broke the rule. He didn't get rations for a second child because he wasn't supposed to have it because of population control. He says, "I hate the Communists. Yes, we are communistic. We're socialistic. But did you know only nine percent of us belong to the party?" He said, "Did you notice that man that was sitting in the side of our room in the meeting that never said anything? He's the political commissar. He was just listening to what you were saying. You didn't say anything wrong, but he's with the party. All the rest of us talking business, we're not part of the party." Well, you learn these little insights as you travel and some of it perhaps don't have a part in going through an oral history, but at the same time, they are interesting to me that you learn and live and intermingle with the politics and people. And my good friend that couldn't have the second child changed his name, is now an executive with the high steamship, Good Steamship Company in Hong Kong and has a completely different name now. And so met him there, and he says, "Gosh, it's a different life. It's just a different life than China."

Things are changing. Capitalism is moving in, went to the Nike Factory in China and saw all the air gel shoes and some of the, well, actually some of the lower end shoes were the ones that being made in this particular factory. But Nike's big over there having also in Korea. Nike is very big in Korea. It's interesting living here in Portland, Oregon, the world headquarters for Nike, and sometimes going overseas and talking with local people and seeing the happy people that worked in the Nike shops in China. They were so happy because they were making more than their neighbor. They were making more than other people. And here in America, it sounds like they're suffering in sweat shops. But when you talk to them directly, they are so happy. But Nike is quite a name over there, and they're sold over there. Sometimes I would get acquainted with a person enough to tell them I can practically walk to the Nike campus from my house, the world headquarters. They go, "What?" And yes, it's on Jenkins Street right down the street from Cedar Hills Boulevard and have a good friend there, and once in a while, he'll give me a pass to the employees' store, and that's just great. We talk about Nike, and it's really comforting to know that the hometown grown company can get that big and that global and be so visible in the Olympics for example. It's really great to see that when you're way over there in Pusan, Korea, you're there in Shanghai, China, or you're in Hong Kong. Again I'm thankful that it was international trade, Port of Portland, and my business that I'm in now that has taken me to have these kind of doors open and chances to meet some of these people and to learn a little bit about international trade.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

MH: We're going to kind of leave your business over here on the side for a while. Talk about your family. You married Keiko, when? How many children do you have? What expectations do you have for them?

GN: Well, like a lot of people, you kind of tell yourself that how blessed you are to have such a wonderful family, and I, deep in the marrow of my bones, feel that way. Keiko growing up in Okayama, coming here, not knowing English, learning her English by watching John Wayne movies on television but getting so acclimated to the American way of life and graduating with no problems through Buckman and Washington High School and then going down to the University of Oregon. But she's been a tremendous supporter all through the years, and she's, of course, been affiliated with the Beaverton School District for a good many years, at first as a volunteer and just going to a number of schools to do a variety of things and then being more of an aide, a library aide, an audio visual person at the end, and really going to three or four middle schools and grade schools, but having a very nice career with the Beaverton School District. And I think being with children, young children, every day and recognizing their challenges has been good for her and for us because everyone lives differently, everyone is an individual. They all have their different priorities and agendas, and so her tenure at Beaverton School District I believe was quite helpful. She enjoys her work. And during the early years, she made sure that she was always home when our young children came home. And so whether it was by school bus or in the case of Ridgewood, our children can walk there. In the early afternoons, she was always home. And all the things that little children feel important, the friends and activities and things they do at home, mother Keiko was always there.

Deena, our firstborn, went through the schools identical to Carla and with Darren, our second and third, and that is through Ridgewood Grade School to Cedar Park Middle School and through Sunset High School. And I served on the local school committee, didn't want to run for the school board because of my travels, but we, Keiko and I paid a great, a lot of attention and interest to school activities. We tried to participate whenever we can, and, fortunately, our children all did very well. They were very active. I didn't know Deena was a singer, but she had the lead role in her grade school play and didn't know she could hit that high note, but she did. And Darren was in a play and Carla, and they all won scholarships to universities. They all won what's called the Centurion Award that's given to a handful of people that get out of Cedar Park. So academically, scholastically, they did quite well. Deena, of course, went to Occidental down in California then went to the Honors College at University of Oregon. Carla went to University of Oregon, got her masters, and now is in speech pathology and working with challenged children in the Beaverton School District, and I'm really proud of all of them. Deena is, was voted the Pfizer which is a huge multi-national company. She was voted the marketing person of the year several years ago, won several awards, has won several trips with Pfizer, is now the business analyst for the West Coast which is kind of a fancy title of developing strategic plans for Kaiser consumer products that are sold to Fred Meyers, to Costco, to Albertson's, to Safeway, some of the larger mass marketing supermarkets. She travels a great deal to their annual meetings and so forth, but very, very disciplined. She lives not too far from us in the Bethany area, has her office in her home, and when it's 8 o'clock, she's in her office and doesn't come out until twelve, goes back in before one and is there till five, and has two young little boys, two proud little grandchildren of ours, but is so disciplined that when it's work time, she works. And Keiko of course goes over to babysit a couple days a week. So Deena really pays great attention to her own family and her little, her son Ethan, our grandson, now four and a half going on five years old goes to school a couple days a week, make sure he gets there and gets back, and I go pick him up sometimes when I'm free. But she makes sure that be it swimming lessons or be it activities or discipline or the time outs that are sometimes necessary, she's doing that. And sometimes confided, "Yeah Mom, yeah Dad, you were kind of tough on us, but sure glad you were. Now I'm kind of applying those to my own children."

Carla, I've been to her school. I've seen some of her students, and yes, they've had difficulties, but I really have to say no other way to say it, but I admire Carla and her gift of working with these children. Very early on, she took on a boy, autistic boy, when he was just a tiny tot, worked with him for years. This boy came to Carla's wedding, and I saw him. He used to come over to our house and just stare out the window never to say a word, and now, he'll smile, and he'll say hello and he'll talk a little bit, and I think that Carla just did wonders for this boy. And there are a number of cases like that that she's really given children direction to find their way, that things are all right, that they can do things. You can build self-confidence. And so her career, and she had a daughter Lindsey that's almost two now, our granddaughter, a lot of fun, some days chatty but a lot of smiles, calls us up, very humorous, throws in a Japanese word or two to us that shocks us, but a total delight, and Carla will next year bless us with another child, so we're looking forward to that, be our fourth grandchild. So as we, as Keiko and I kind of think about our lives and now we're both, we can get our senior discount, we kind of look around and really count our blessings because we have both our daughters that are close to us, and we have the grandchildren that we can see, and as any grandparent will say, "You can love to death your grandchildren, but at the end of the day, you can say well goodbye, see you later," and the luxury of that is kind of hard to describe unless you are a grandparent.

Darren did very well in school academically, and he went on to Stanford and got his master's, and luckily for us because of tuition, he's got several sizeable scholarships there. He then worked at C.H. [inaudible] as an engineer and environmental. And he looked around and he's not sure, but he's interested in environmental law, international law and corporate law. University of Michigan of course is one of America's top law schools ranked right along with Yale and Harvard, so he graduated, and he has already been offered a permanent associate job in really one of the renowned law firms in New York, a law firm that handles quite a bit of work for the Fortune 500, so it's going to be tremendous legal experience for Darren. He just graduated, and he just boned up for the New York law bar exam which was as most lawyers will tell you extremely intensive, but he will be in New York, and he'll be working there, and it's hard to predict how long he will be with this particular law firm or eventually whether he might relocate back here to Portland. But just looking at the client list and the kinds of opportunities that he has there, major, major, corporations, and whether it has to do with litigation or with patent or with mergers or with acquisitions, certainly the opportunity there in the legal profession is there in front of Darren, so I'm very happy that he's going to have that chance to go along in the legal profession and in the next few years, chart his own course.

Keiko and I have been blessed with three children that we feel have given us a great deal of happiness. Sure, during the growing up days, we went on trips, we enjoyed things, whether it's through Central Oregon or to the coast or up to Canada. I visited Deena when she was attending Waseda University in Tokyo. She was quite fluent in Japanese at that time. She could tell me all the transfer stops of the subway system. She told me the great places to eat. Unfortunately, she is now kind of forgotten quite a bit of her Japanese. At the same time, Darren in Michigan had a lot of the Todai, University of Tokyo graduates in law taking graduate work at the University of Michigan, became friends with a number of them, studied some Japanese, surprised me the other day, coming home, he could speak pretty good Japanese and understand quite a bit. Darren, probably in our family,, some people are gifted a little bit more linguistically. When he went down to Cuba, not too many people by the way have ever been to Cuba, but he's been there. He spent several months there. He could converse quite fluently in Spanish. I took Spanish, studied rather hard. He was way ahead of me. So Darren learned some Japanese, and he went to Japan recently, and he saw some of his lawyer friends, enjoyed that a lot. And so, yes, we've been blessed with three children, Deena, Carla, and Darren, and now we have three grandchildren, soon to be four, and grandchildren Ethan, his name is Ethan Yoshio, and so we kind of kid each other, we're both Yoshio. Second grandson Noah, his middle name is Nakata, so his name really is Noah Nakata, and Lindsey is Lindsey Kei. It's not K-A-Y, it's Kei for Keiko, so how lucky can we be but to have grandchildren that are carrying on our name and know who Grandma and Grandpa are, and we enjoy playing with them. So recently, we've really had a great time.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

MH: You know, I know that Deena has written a book, The Gift. How did that come about? I think probably you had something to do with it, maybe?

GN: Deena was always interested in a very uncommon sort of way on history, culture, asked me about Japantown, Minidoka. She won the Senatorial Scholarship to Japan and went back to Japan, made two trips to Japan, stayed there for a number of months and loved Japan and its culture. And she learned about, she walked through rice fields and made ochawan's pottery and learned about clubs at Waseda University and traveled around Honshu and Shikoku, and she just respected and admired the people and all the things Japanese. And she then started to become more interested in her own roots and found that there was an absence of anything at least here in the Portland area, and subsequent to that, some other efforts have been initiated including this one of oral history. But at that time, there was almost a total lack, go to a library and you're not going to find much. Go to the Oregon Historical Society, hardly anything. The Nikkeijinkai, maybe a few pictures, that's about all, and Deena felt that maybe something could be done. And simultaneous to that, Harold 'Bones' Onishi approached me at church, Epworth Methodist Church, one day, and he said, "I've got an idea of maybe getting several of us together and thinking about a book. I think San Francisco and Los Angeles and Seattle all have kind of in their archives a book about the Nikkei community. We don't have anything." We sat down and talked about it. We got together and talked some more. Several others joined us, and there were challenges of funding it, of gathering photos, somebody writing it, somebody editing it, maybe copyright issues. But in my mind, nothing was insurmountable. That's all doable. It's going to take a little research. We're all resourceful in this room, we can do it. Who's going to write it? Somehow, the name of Deena was just thrown out there, and our three children all in terms of creative writing did very well. Darren, for example, I know has a tremendous vocabulary because he's talked about words that I don't even know what they mean. But nevertheless, Deena took on the task of writing the book. Originally, there was supposed to be two writers, but circumstances caused the other writer to leave our committee. And then there was a question of, "Deena, can you solo it, can you do it alone?" Well, young person with a job, and she said, "I'll do it. I'll need help, but I'll do it." And so our committee got together and met some more, and we went through quite a few stages learning about paging and graphic illustration, hard bound, soft bound costs, the legal steps of copyrighting, gathering photos from family albums, trying to tie it in with text, none of us professional at this. So we learned along the way and on the job training, and it's not a Nobel prize winner. It's not an award winning book, but it is the first thing of record that I know of that at least talks about the immigrants, the picture bride, the Nihonmachi, the executive order, all of the things for the last hundred years. And it was not easy for Deena and I. I recall distinctly her staying up at all hours wording and rewording things and checking the accuracy of this and going out with her little tape recorder and visiting many people from George Azumano to John Murakami to, gosh, so many people, Mr. Kinoshita out on Columbia Boulevard, Doctor Nakadate, so many, Iwasakis, and having this private library of her own and trying to prioritize and tie it into a story. She was very fond of Jiichan, my father, and she admits in the book I believe that Jiichan didn't speak fluent English. She didn't speak Japanese, but somehow they bonded, they communicated, and so she kind of dedicated her book to Jiichan and really to the Issei.

And so it came about the first book called The Gift several years ago, and Harold 'Bones' Onishi and I was, were kind of perplexed as to should we produce five hundred books. Do you think we can really get rid of five hundred? That's asking quite a bit, thousand, oh my golly. But we actually produced 1500 or 2000 books and hard copy and soft copy. And lo and behold, requests started to come in and I'd like five and I'd like ten and I'd like six. And not being a commercial company, we've got four orders from Alaska. We've got ten from Japan. How do we even ship and handle these? So we lived and learned, but we got orders. And in a few months, we were sold out. And even today in 2004, once in a while, Bones Onishi and I would say, "You know, we continue to get calls, and I think we could have sold another thousand." George, should, no, think about it, Bones. That was it. That project is over with. It's sayonara. We don't want to go back to that. We don't want to revisit. "Yes, but my wife Elsie is getting calls for more books." It was, sure we do that in good humor, but Deena was really one of the main strengths behind that whole effort as well as Bones and dedicated committee members, so Scott Sakamoto, [inaudible] artist, and it came out okay. As I mentioned, it's not the glossy thing. It was done on a shoestring budget. We tried to sell it at an affordable price. And so I think it was a contribution to the Nikkei legacy of Portland in its own small way.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

MH: How are you spending your time now that you're semi-retired I think?

GN: Well, after twenty-four years with the Port of Portland, learning a few things about international trade and international investment, in 1995, I decided it's time to slow down or scale down. But really what I wanted to do was always wanted to have my own business, and I think it's maybe some gnawing thread from my father who always wanted to run his own business. And I kind of tried to objectively look at my strengths and what I can contribute, and I noted that there's a number of American companies that are uncomfortable or not too familiar with doing business in the Far East. And I also noted that there are Japanese companies that if you're in Osaka or you're in Kobe or you're in Fukuoka, you're not going to be able to easily analyze things in America. So I put together my own company, tiny little company, one employee, and I incorporate, and I decided to give it a very different creative name called George Nakata International Limited, and I gave my notice, and the port was so nice. At the World Trade Center, they held a party, and they invited kind of the international community there and flowery speeches that I didn't deserve. And the executive director gets up and he says, "We're going to miss you, George, and we're going to be your first client." So on that day, as I left, I had my first client, and some of the other attendees, so lucky I am that the next week, I had three other clients, Japanese customers, that wanted to have me as their adviser if you will. And my business is such that it's not a project by project, but it's being a retainer and being available to them. So I signed three-year, two-year, one-year contract with companies. In a year, I had five customers, and then the second year, I had seven customers which that's all I wanted. I know some consultants that are very proud that they have fifteen or twenty clients. I cannot do justice or serve or do a good job for that many. I only wanted six or seven.

So some of them are located in Japan and some of them here. I was on contract with the Oregon Department of Agriculture for example. I was on contract with Portland Development Commission which is the engine for the City of Portland that needed international advice. Biggs Food Company in Japan that wanted to make new products, but they could not understand trends of America, food. So if the movement is toward convenience food or for healthy food or for organic food or for low carb food or a myriad of new trends, not fads but strong movement in the food industry, they wanted a voice here which they wanted me to serve. And the Japanese culture as mentioned earlier are so competitive with each other that I would attend food conferences for them because they didn't want their name on the registration list. So sometimes I'd go to Chicago to McCormick Pier to the food marketing, the biggest show in America, all the big food companies are there, write a full report back to Tokyo. In reverse, I would go to Japan and go close to Chiba to a place called Makuhari Messe which is like a five Portland Convention Centers put together, huge place. They have the biggest Asian food show in Asia, just the biggest. Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, they are all represented, and I went there four or five times in the last few years to see what's happening in Japan. Oh, carrot juice is really getting popular this year. Konnyaku is sort of the health food of the year, and you know, not to get specific but you learn trends. And would bagels which is really originated in New York, would bagels really sell in Japan? Big question for Japanese companies. Seems kind of just interesting to us perhaps but commercially, some of those are very critical corporate decisions to be made. And so to have additional market intelligence to kind of feed them what's going on, what are trends and what are fade away fads that will be gone tomorrow, what might work, what might not work, all of those kind of things with sending monthly reports to the clients and would make at least one or two trips to Japan and meet with these clients. And so I have to admit, it gave me more freedom with my own time. I could make the trips on my calendar, far much more time to spend with Keiko and the children and now the grandchildren. So to have my own business, to have and be blessed with that many clients right off the bat, doing what I like to do, being involved in an industry that I really have a passion for. Yes, I have scaled it down and I'm kind of slowing down, but even today, I have several clients. One client has me on a fairly accelerated six-month project that's taking quite a bit of my time, so it's been very, very interesting. Yes, I get my senior discount at the restaurants. But at the same time, I can kind of work on my own timeframe. Don't have to have a lot of meetings. I have my meeting in the morning when I wake up and brush my teeth and look in the mirror and I say, "What should I do today?" and so there are certainly advantages to having a small company. Keiko has helped me once in a life when I get tired, and she'll type up my monthly reports or a few other things, but it's been kind of a one man corporation, but it's been an awful lot of fun. So the beauty of doing business in the Far East is with the advent of high tech e-mail. When Japan is either sixteen or seventeen hours ahead of us depending on summertime or not, in the end of the day in Portland, Oregon, I send off an e-mail. And when I get up in the morning, still in my pajamas, I go into my tiny little office, turn on my computer, and there is the e-mail reply, and so quite a bit of my advisory work if you will, is done through the modern computer age of e-mail, so that's working out great.

So having a lot of fun these days, not putting in the forty-hour work, but working a few hours a week, sometimes more than others, enjoying it, enjoying the grandkids, doing things with them. We have a fractional ownership down in Depoe Bay and with Seaside, so we spend a few weeks a year down there, sometime with friends and sometimes with family. Went up recently with Carla's family and last week into Victoria and Vancouver. So yes, again, hoping that the health keeps up for both of us. Very, very, enjoyable days puttering around in our garden in our yard. We don't have a blade of grass. If it's grass, it's kind of weed. We only have stone and shrubs. And my father, of course, had bonsai plants all over. And in our younger days, little Darren, our son, used to run around with Grandpa, Jiichan, in our backyard, and I picked up some of that. And so Keiko and I designed our whole landscape and didn't have a plan, but we thought, well, a dry stream here will look good and a big boulder will look here and a Japanese maple will look good here and looked at a few books and roamed around the Japanese garden and created our own little place. But we like to putter around and landscape and work with the garden once in a while, and it's kind of a good diversion from the day to day consulting work, advisory work of the more heavy international trade work. So we do that. And another thing that I've kind of gone back to my childhood hobby of watercoloring, so I've been painting things recently, painted a few scenes. And Keiko and I recently have been taking up the, another new hobby of making notecards which doesn't seem like the most exciting thing to come down the road, but when we think of combining origami, Asian design, what's called iris folding, intricate cuttings, rubber stamping, we have been improving in our technique in making cards. We don't do it commercially really. Sure, we've entered a craft show or two and sold a few cards, but we've sent some to friends. We've given them to friends and family. It's become kind of a fun thing for us to do. And so in the basement of our home, we have a little studio set up with our scissors, our paper cutters, our tapes, our origami, some of the patterns that we have designed. And so every once in a while, Keiko and I go down to our little studio and we make twenty, thirty cards. And so making of notecards has become also kind of a habit or a hobby, and we've enjoyed it. So as we get to be seniors, we're spending time in more pleasurable activities.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

MH: You know, I can see what makes you pretty happy, George; your family, your paintings, your artwork, even your consulting business. You know, is there anything that you really worry about for yourself, for your kids, you know?

GN: Not to be too overly philosophical. I look at the global situation and look at what to some degree is finding its roots in religious origins have pitted people against each other, and sometimes in the political arena, it could grow fairly ugly. And as most people think of their children and their grandchildren and the generations to follow, in the total expanse of time, an individual life is such an infinitesimal dot on that line that goes on 'til infinity. But when you see clashes and non-productive things, why does a person spend their energy creating a virus that infects thousands of computers? Why would someone train themselves to be a terrorist to wipe out other human lives? So again, not to be too broad, but it would seem to me that those concerns on a more global basis, when one thinks of the environment, when one thinks of terrorism, when one thinks of human beings doing unproductive rather destructive things, small way, big way, I'm not talking of media spin, but I'm talking reality. You wonder about the world in 2050, 2025. On the short term, you wonder about education. You wonder about medical. Sure, the family down the street is concerned about budgeting for future medical expenses. Hundred thousand dollars for four years to go to state university, few years is going to be $250,000 to go to a private university for four years. You have to budget for that. And all the educational IRAs and the 529 plans, the financial planning, that's important, yes, but in the bigger and broader things, picture, I look at some of the global happenings right now, and you can't really erase that. They have to be I think of major concern, and hopefully, some way, somehow, that fear, that huge concern will be kept under control some way. That's my hope, of course, that my three grandchildren and fourth grandchild coming on and the generations to follow them will have a world. I'm enjoying life, put it that way, and I want them likewise. So it might not be, you know, having their favorite Chinese dinner or something or whatever that I might enjoy, but hopefully in their age, they can enjoy things in a world that's moving so very fast. The high tech industry obviously is great. I'm not talking about the speed with which we can do things on the computer, but it makes life totally different than when we were growing up. We had to add the long way. We had to sharpen pencils by whittling with our knife. We had to, the engineers had to use slide rules. You know, now blackberry, you can send an e-mail on, and Japan for many years had picture telephones way ahead of us. To me it's mind boggling. I still can't fathom how an airplane flies for the simplest of reasons. I don't even know why a motorcar of this spontaneous combustion even works. But when somebody goes to the moon or when somebody can telephone and take my picture, it's moving very rapidly. And what I, I think what I'm leading up to is that I hope we don't outrun ourselves, but there's a quality of life that there comes a time that the old saying goes, "Yeah, you better stop and smell the roses." And in today's world, yeah, you better smell the aroma of Starbuck, but you better not rush because you might miss something. And in this high tech world, yes, Intel, yes, Microsoft, yes, internet, high definition TV, it's all great. I enjoy it myself. But I wonder when we get too overly immersed in it that we're not losing something.

MH: So then, what advice would you give like to your grandchildren or this next generation that's coming up? I know you said stop and smell the roses. What else would you tell them?

GN: Well, as I reflect back on the annals of Japanese and Japanese American history, it's relatively short history here in Portland. And if my grandchildren came up to me someday when they're a bit older and asked, "Grandpa, tell me a little bit about the early years, about your history, about what's important, maybe some guidelines, maybe something to think about," I guess I would harken back a little bit to the three first marine folks that were shipwrecked in 1834, and these Japanese sailors, merchant people, landed in the Oregon Territory, the three first Japanese. And many decades thereafter, the Issei followed. In the late 1890s, the early 1900s, and along with them came Jiichan from Okayama, and he settled here with his grandparents who subsequently went back. He went back and got Baachan, married and came back. He developed two businesses and then Nihonmachi grew, thrived, and mushroomed and then seemed to disappear. And Executive Order 9066 came, and our family suddenly was not just Nakata, it was 15066. So suddenly, we find ourselves in Section 3, Portland Assembly Center, then on a train to parts unknown which happened to be Minidoka, Idaho. So another set of numbers, 34-6-A is permanently etched in my mind, Block 34, Barrack 6, Apartment A. The days in Minidoka from the sagebrush, the coyotes, the ticks, to the enjoyable days of greasewood and fishing, baseball and school, coming back to Portland, the resettlement days, and the government in 1988 maybe recognizing redress, 1990, disbursement of funds, my regret is by the time they got around to it, one-third of the Isseis were gone, so the people that were really deserving of monetary help were not with us. But all the things that we learned of Issei pioneers that were small in stature but giants when it came to the spirit of ganbare and giri and on, gaman, perseverance and dedication, and how they got knocked down and got up again, how they persevered in Minidoka, how they lost their total assets only to start all over again, that spirit is somehow enduring. It is somehow unwavering, and it is somehow being passed on to Niseis, Sanseis, Yonseis, to the fifth, sixth, seventh generation, so when my grandchildren ask, I suppose I would recite some of that history to them and tell them to look at the new millennium, the diversity, and the high tech, but never let your roots fade away. And let the strength given to you, passed on to you from the Isseis stay with you and build from there.

MH: We're just about the end of our interview. Is there anything else you would like to add?

GN: No, I don't believe so except making the comment that I hope the aggregate of all the oral histories, not just mine but the aggregate, can be somehow compiled, blended together, which really tell a story of our people. They're really amazing people that pulled up their roots and planted and nurtured new roots, and this project, hopefully Niseis older, Niseis, maybe a few remaining Isseis, other folks that have had a role in the Nikkei community of Portland and Oregon can give their contribution because I think the aggregate will be a very powerful story.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.