Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Hara Interview
Narrator: George Hara
Interviewer: Loen Dozono
Date: February 5, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-hgeorge_2-01-0001

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LD: Well, it's February 5, 2003, and we're in the home of George Hara, Dr. George Hara, age seventy-eight, and we're going to begin our interview. George, tell us about your parents and how they came to the United States.

GH: Okay. I did a little research and came up with some names. Up until I talked to you, I wasn't too much on genealogy, but I got into it a little bit. My father was born in Japan, and he grew up in the rural Yokohama area. His parents' name were Magaemon Hara and his, my grandmother's name was Soyo. Anyway, in his family, he was the youngest, and he was the boy. He had four sisters that were older than him and one other older brother. I researched a little bit into his side of the family, but for some reason, the information there was more scanty. Whereas on my mother's side, she was born also in the contour, central Japanese area in Yokohama, and her background was more in the city. Her parents had a small shop, so they were merchant people, and the father's name was Kojima, mother's name was Nishikawa. My mother's history was sort of interesting. She was the second youngest in the family of four girls. And at a very early age, probably due to economic reasons, she was adopted out and raised by the Nishikawa family. And I mention this because this left a deep scar in her psyche, and she always resented the fact, and she couldn't quite understand why she was chosen to be adopted out.

And anyway, going back to my father's side, at the age of twenty, in 1903, being the youngest male in the family, he decided to seek better opportunities in the United States and more and more of the young Japanese were immigrating overseas mainly to Hawaii, South America, and then to the United States. The immigrants to United States came mainly to California, Washington, and State of Oregon. For some reason, my father landed up, ended up in a small rural area in Washington across from the Astoria, Oregon, near the Long Beach area. It was the area or peninsula where the main industry was oyster farming, and he became a worker on an oyster farm, and I think he rather enjoyed his new surroundings, vastness and beauty, the scenery, and he was really enchanted and enjoyed a life there. And after a while, he decided, I think, to go back to Japan, find a wife, get married, and raise a family, and then probably come back with her and the family back to the United States. And during his stay and after his marriage, my mother bore three children. The oldest was a girl whose name was Emiko. And I have pictures of her in my album and she, she's a lovely looking gal and, but unfortunately, during the 1923 big earthquake, she was living in Yokohama and suffered severe injuries and burns of which she died. Her younger sister had childhood illness and she also passed away, oh, in the first or second year. Her brother who followed was a sickly infant and died during infancy. Any rate, with the loss of three children, my mother felt a tremendous sense of loss, and along with the fact that she had this persecution complicity of being adopted out anyway, my father and mother moved back to the Washington, to the Willapa Bay area, and she was placed in a, or she got a job as a housegirl working for a pioneer family in the area. I think their name was Esbey. Any rate, the idea was for her to learn American custom, learn how to cook American meals, and learn English. As much as my father was enchanted with the land, for my mother, it was very lonely. She didn't have very many friends. There were a few other immigrant Isseis there, but she was very lonely. And knowing her personality, she was pretty persuasive; and eventually, my mother and father decided to move away from the oyster farm and seek their opportunities elsewhere.

They ended up in Portland, Oregon, where my father began his career as a hotel owner. And I say hotel, these were sort of rooming houses for the single man and occasionally for the married couple who needed a place to sleep. Their first business was located in southwest Portland on the corner of Washington Street and Front, and it was called New Market Hotel, and across the street was a Chesterfield Hotel also run by Isseis by the name of Yoshi. And over the course of several years, two families grew very close together. My mother became pregnant much to her surprise, and I was born in 1925. Because of the loss of three of her children, she was more than protective towards me. She was overly protective and probably pampered me which led Mrs. Yoshida kid my mother about raising me like otonosama or prince. At any rate, there weren't other Nisei friends for me to play with except for a few. One was a friend of my father who had a daughter my age, and whenever he came, he used to bring his daughter, and her name was Chiye, Chiye Tomihiro, and the Tomihiro families were later, I found out, very close to the Inuzuka family which was my wife's family background. Anyway, I used to kid Chiye in later years when I saw her that she was the first girl I took to bed with me, and literally this was true. We were about five, five years old; and most Japanese families in the hotel, there is one room for the living room and another room for a bedroom which all the beds are squeezed together and one room for a kitchen. Other families growing up like we did were more cramped for space, but we had three separate rooms for our needs, and Chiye and I would use the bedroom and use the bed as trampolines, and we had some great times when we were five or six.

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