Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Azumano Interview
Narrator: George Azumano
Interviewer: Stephan Gilchrist
Date: September 20, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ageorge-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

SG: Okay. I'll go ahead and start by asking what your name is.

GA: George Azumano.

SG: And Mr. Azumano, where and when were you born?

GA: I was born in Portland, Oregon, on June 9, 1918.

SG: And where were your parents from?

GA: From Japan, Tokushima-ken.

SG: Both your parents were from --

GA: Both of them, yes.

SG: When did your parents come over to...

GA: My father came over in 1906, and my mother came over in 1917.

SG: And do you know the reasons for your father to come to Oregon?

GA: I'm sure he wanted to make money and go back to Japan. Stories of getting rich quick in the U.S. was prevalent in those days.

SG: Did he ever talk about his experience coming to the United States?

GA: Yes. Gosh, I don't remember those now. I don't remember the details of his coming over.

SG: Do you know what kind of work he did?

GA: He didn't do much railroad work like most of the Japanese did in those days. I know he used to be a cook on these freight ships that plied between Astoria and San Francisco. He's done that kind of work, and he also did some farming.

SG: And he came straight to Portland from Japan?

GA: I think so. I think so. It could have been Seattle, but I'm sure it's Portland.

SG: Did he ever talk about why he chose Portland?

GA: No, no. My mother came through I think it was Tacoma. The ship landed in Tacoma first, and then she came by land to Portland.

SG: And what was her reasons coming over?

GA: Well, she had already been married. They were married in Japan, and then he came first and she later.

SG: So it was eleven years after they had married, that your father came?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: That's quite a long time.

GA: Well, no. He came first before he was married. He went back to Japan to get married. And then after he got married, he came back first again to U.S. and then called his wife to, over, my mother over.

SG: Did your mom ever talk about how, what it was like for her to come to the United States from Japan?

GA: I think she, I don't think she wanted to come. She had a nice family in Japan; but of course, marriage forced her to come and she came. That's about what I know about her coming over, 1917 is the year.

SG: And how many children did your parents have?

GA: Two, my sister and me.

SG: Are you the youngest or the --

GA: I was older.

SG: So, and when was your sister born?

GA: She was born in July of 1920, July 14, I think it was.

SG: She's a little bit, quite a bit younger?

GA: Two years younger than I.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

SG: And do you remember what it was like growing up in Portland?

GA: Growing up? I don't remember too much about my preschool years. I know my father used to operate a hotel in downtown Portland, but he came to the conclusion that raising a family in a hotel was not good, so he decided to come to the east side of Portland, and he bought a grocery store on North Russell and Williams Avenue, and he continued his grocery business until the time that World War II started.

SG: Do you remember the name of the hotel and the grocery store?

GA: Hotel's name was Panama Hotel. Of course, it's no longer there, but the location is now occupied by I think it's called Great China Restaurant on the second floor. The ground floor used to be Tuklong, but now it's some kind of a general merchandise store I think, gift shop on Fourth and Davis.

SG: How long, how old were you when you moved to the east side?

GA: Six years old.

SG: Do you remember what it was like living in the hotel?

GA: I don't remember too much about that, I really don't. I remember more after I moved to the east side. I grew up in the grocery store really.

SG: Was the hotel mostly, did it cater mostly to Japanese clients?

GA: No, no, to American working men, laborers. In those days, there were many working men working in the timber, timber fields and railroads and farms, and those people would come in especially during the weekends.

SG: And would your mom do, work on the hotel as well?

GA: Oh, yeah. She would make the beds and clean the rooms. I think my father also, at that time, he operated a fruit stand, vegetable stand on Yamhill Street. Yamhill Street in those days was a street lined with all, many, many stands, vegetables and fruit, very bustling street in those days. It was between Front Avenue and like Fourth Avenue on Yamhill.

SG: Did you help out at the fruit stand?

GA: No, I didn't, no. I was too young in those days.

SG: I just thought of something. I just wanted to ask a question, just to go back a little bit, but where were you born? Like were you born in a hospital?

GA: Hospital, the old Saint Vincent Hospital that has been torn down now, and the new Saint Vincent Hospital is located out here in Northwest Portland.

SG: So you said after you were six, you moved over to the east side?

GA: Yes.

SG: Where did you live on the east side?

GA: On Williams Avenue near Tillamook Street. Tillamook is about three blocks north of Broadway.

SG: So you lived close to the grocery store?

GA: Just two blocks, two blocks from the grocery store, yes.

SG: What was that neighborhood like then?

GA: Well, it was a regular working men's neighborhood, people of modest means, not a rich neighborhood at all. And I remember starting, I started waiting on customers when I was about eight years old, so I got my, I got to know people, be able to talk to people at an early age.

SG: You have many, was it a Japanese grocery store?

GA: No, no. It catered to Americans.

SG: So you start, you, with your parents, did you speak mostly Japanese?

GA: With my parents, I did, yes.

SG: And did you, where did you learn to speak English with the customers?

GA: Oh, I just, it just came naturally I guess because I was able to speak English. Of course, I went to, started grammar school at age six. School is only two blocks away from the grocery store.

SG: Did your parents, how was their English?

GA: Enough to be understood. They were not fluent in English but enough to be understood. And my mother too, she also waited on customers, so she picked up English pretty fast.

SG: So they didn't rely on you to, for translation?

GA: Oh, no, no.

SG: So what kind of work did you do around the grocery store?

GA: Oh, filling shelves, bringing out the produce, displaying the produce. And in those days, the grocery stores were not self-service. You waited on each customer as they, when they came in. And as they decided on what to, what to buy, they would bring it to the counter. I would help them bring the items to the counter. When they got finished, of course, we would compute the total and collect the money. Stores are now operating, as you know, they are self-service, and it was nothing like that in those days.

SG: Did you enjoy working at the grocery store?

GA: Oh, I did. I had fun, yes.

SG: What are, do you have some fond memories that come to mind?

GA: Well, some of those customers came to be friends. And until just a few years ago, I was able to be in touch with them. Of course, now they are all gone and those days are gone forever.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

SG: So you mentioned that you started elementary school close by?

GA: Yes.

SG: And were there other Japanese kids that went to the elementary school?

GA: Very few. There was only a handful. Most of them were Caucasians.

SG: And in the neighborhood as well, were there not many Japanese families?

GA: No, very few. In fact, I don't remember any in those days. I remember a Chinese family across the street from us. Oh, yes, there was another Japanese grocery store a block away.

SG: So was your family friends with the owners of the other grocery --

GA: Yes, yes. We competed on a friendly basis.

SG: I had a question about actually working in the grower store. How did, did you use a cash register, pencil and paper, or an abacus to add the prices up?

GA: No, we did not use abacus. Most of the time, it was pencil and paper. And then of course later on, modern cash registers came along where you press the price of each item. Of course, you get the total that way. But at first, it was just paper and pencil.

SG: And do you remember the hours that the store operated?

GA: Well, the store hours were very long, six in the morning till about eight or nine at night. We spent long hours at the store.

SG: And that was just having the store open?

GA: Yes.

SG: So there's more work before and after?

GA: Well, no. Once we closed the store, that was it. Our store at first was one of these types of buildings that had canvas, canvas front, so you'd roll up the canvas to open the store and roll it down, drop it in the evening, and you'd have chains to run down the sides of the canvas to lock it up for the night, you know. So once we locked up, that was it for that day. Most of the work was done while the store was open.

SG: Did your parents ever while they were running the store, from customers or from the neighborhood, feel any discrimination because they were Japanese?

GA: No, not in those days. If there was discrimination, they would not come to us so we would not know. I didn't feel any, I didn't notice any kind of discrimination in those days. Later on after the war started, of course there was. But in those early days, there was none as far as I can remember.

SG: And how was the elementary school in that way?

GA: I felt no discrimination. I went from the first grade to the eighth grade in grammar school and I don't remember any discrimination.

SG: Were most of your friends Japanese or were they white?

GA: Ninety-nine percent of my friends were Caucasian people. And the picture changed, the picture of the area changed after World War II. But before World War II, there were few blacks. But now, it's the center of the black population in that area.

SG: So before World War II, it was mostly Caucasian families?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: Did you find any, growing up with mostly Caucasian, that there was any misunderstandings between cultures?

GA: I don't recall any. No, I just don't recall. We got along fine, and I had some good friends among the Caucasians. Later on after I got into high school, the element of girls entered in, you know, so that's when I started going out with the Japanese people not in the neighborhood but in the city because it was easier to obtain dates from Japanese girls than Caucasian girls.

SG: Why was that, do you know?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: Why, do you know why it was easier to date Japanese girls?

GA: Gosh, I don't know. I don't, I don't ever remember being refused. I used to have a crush on a Caucasian girl, but I never got very far with her.

SG: Do you remember her name?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: Do you remember her name?

GA: Yes, Desdemona. Yeah, I remember her name very well. Those were my, maybe the third or fourth or fifth grade, something like that.

SG: What was a typical day like for you when you were in elementary school?

GA: Well, first of all, we lived in a house away from the grocery store about two blocks, but my mother would always be cooking in the store rather than the house because she had to work in the store, so we would always go to the store to eat, eat our meals. So therefore, we'd go to the store to eat breakfast, go to school, and come back for lunch to the store again, back to school and back to the store after school. And the evening meals were also at the store, so the house was primarily just to sleep.

SG: When did you do your studying?

GA: Of course, in grammar school, I didn't, there was not much homework. After I got to high school, I studied mostly in the store because the store was open 'til about 9 o'clock at night, and therefore, I would study from like six to nine or something like that.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

SG: Did you have time to play with the other kids while you were growing up?

GA: I didn't have much time. Another thing that entered into the picture during those days was that we had to go to Japanese language school three days out of the week, Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and that school was usually from 4 to 6 o'clock, and so we'd have to go to that school and thereby denying us playing time with our friends. I really objected to that, but I couldn't do much about it. I had to go to Japanese school.

SG: Where was that located?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: Where was the Japanese school located?

GA: It was located roughly ten blocks away. So most of the time, we'd have to walk down and walk back.

SG: Now looking back, are you glad you went to Japanese school?

GA: Oh, yes, I do now. But, and I wished I studied more, but I didn't in those days.

SG: What kind of things did they make you learn in school?

GA: Of course, reading and writing, tried to teach us kanji, but it was very difficult for us to learn kanji. I think the teachers also used to try to teach us some customs, Japanese customs. I wish I had learned, been more serious about learning Japanese. It would have helped in later years.

SG: Were there other activities that you did at Japanese school, more social activities?

GA: Very little social activities in Japanese school. Once a year, they used to have picnics. That's all I remember as far as social activities were concerned.

SG: Did you form friendships with the other kids in Japanese school?

GA: Oh, yes, yes. Some of those friends are still living today, and once in a while, we recall the old days. We sort of belittled the Japanese schoolteacher which was not good, but we did. I think some of the students made her cry. These teachers were from Japan, so they would teach us Japanese customs in addition to language.

SG: Were they mostly women teachers?

GA: Mostly, yes.

SG: And they had just come back, and come here to teach and then go back to Japan?

GA: Well, I think they tried to stay in the United States if they could, but most of them, many of them did go back, yes.

SG: And do you remember some of the things you might have said to make the teacher cry or what the other kids --

GA: I don't remember. I don't remember that, but I know we were not good to the teachers. It was bad.

SG: And how long did you go to Japanese school?

GA: I don't remember how many years, but we started around when I was about eight, eight or nine years old, and I continued until I was in high school I think about first or second grade in high school. And then for some reason I discontinued. I can't remember why. It was way before the war started.

SG: Do you remember how much your parents had to pay for you to go to Japanese school?

GA: I don't remember, must not have been too much. There were roughly thirty or forty students in this school that I went to.

SG: Did you all study together in the same room?

GA: No, we had different rooms for different grade levels. School was an old house, so each grade had its own room.

SG: Is there anything else about Japanese school that you wanted to share?

GA: The biggest thing I remember is that we didn't want to go to Japanese school because they denied us playing time.

SG: Did you ever skip Japanese school?

GA: Did I skip? No. We attended faithfully as far as attendance was concerned. It was only three times a week, so it wasn't that bad, but bad enough.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

SG: So on those other days, did you get to play a little bit with your friends or...

GA: Oh, yeah, other days, yes, yes. Yeah, we used to play ball, marbles if you remember marbles. We used to play marbles. And eventually we went to sports like basketball, baseball, of course. I was not able to go out for high school sports because of going to Japanese school. That was another item that we didn't like. We couldn't participate in sports, and I like sports.

SG: So you wish you had been able to play high school sports?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: What would you have played?

GA: Oh, baseball and basketball.

SG: So when you're, did you play any Japanese sports growing up?

GA: Sports, no.

SG: No judo or kendo?

GA: Oh, yeah. I did go to judo for a while, not too long, but I did. That was all.

SG: Did your parents make you go to judo?

GA: Yes.

SG: Did you enjoy judo?

GA: I didn't. I didn't enjoy it, so I didn't stay too long.

SG: Were there any other Japanese cultural or cultural activities that your parents involved you with?

GA: No, just Japanese school. Every once in a while, a Japanese movie would be brought to Portland and we would go to watch that, but we were not forced to go. We were not asked to go, we just wanted to go, so watched the Japanese movie, the old samurai movies, you know.

SG: Where did they show the movies?

GA: In the theaters. They would rent a theater, oh, and they also used the Japanese schools. Downtown Portland had a bigger Japanese school, and they presented movies at the Japanese school. We did not have the facilities in our Japanese school, so we'd, there was no movie presentations. But I remember some movies at the downtown Japanese school. And then sometimes they would rent small theaters to present the Japanese movies. And in those days, they did not have sound, so these, I forgot what you call these men that came around who would talk for the characters on the screen. It was quite, I would say they were very good at it, you know, men talking women's language and so on. They were very good.

SG: So it sounds like you enjoyed going to the --

GA: Oh, yeah, I did, yeah, although I didn't understand a lot of it, but still interesting, especially the samurai movies.

SG: You mentioned earlier that you had played basketball and baseball. Did you ever, did your Caucasian friends ever invite you over to their homes for dinner or to play or was it mostly outside?

GA: No. I don't recall being invited by Caucasian friends. No, I don't remember that. My baseball and basketball playing was with the Japanese Niseis in those days. Yes, in my high school years, we used to have leagues consisting of Japanese, all Japanese. Oh, and we also participated in city leagues, playing against Caucasians, but it was very, playing basketball against Caucasians was a very difficult thing because of our height.

SG: You wouldn't do too well?

GA: We didn't do very well. But among other Japanese, of course, height was about the same, so we could compete very effectively.

SG: Do you remember the name of the Japanese league?

GA: Japanese league? I can't remember the name of the league. It consisted of teams throughout the Portland area. We had teams from Gresham. The various churches had their basketball teams like the Buddhist church, the Methodist church, and different clubs, all Japanese Americans. And every year -- excuse me -- every year, we would go to Seattle to play in tournaments and that was a thrill for us just to be able to go to Seattle to play basketball and baseball. It was the biggest thrill to be able to go to Seattle.

SG: What was so exciting about Seattle?

GA: Well, first of all, the girls, we used to like to talk to the girls up in Seattle. They seem prettier to us. [Laughs] I remember the first time we went to Seattle, we went to a restaurant and I ordered a dish called, oh, veal cutlets. Veal cutlets, boy, that was the best dish I ever ate. At home, living in the grocery store, you know, we didn't have good meals. We had plenty to eat all right, but not complete meals. So when we got into Seattle and ate something like veal cutlets, boy, it was something. It was a treat with gravy on, potatoes and gravy.

SG: Your parents didn't go with you to Seattle?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: Your parents didn't travel with you to Seattle?

GA: Oh, no, no, just the kids.

SG: So where did you stay when you were in Seattle?

GA: Hotels. I was in Seattle recently and I saw the hotel was still there that we used to stay in. I don't think it's a hotel any longer, but the building is still there. It was this old NP Hotel. I think that's for Northern Pacific, brought back memories.

SG: Are there any specific things you remember about staying there?

GA: I remember they had slot machines. We didn't have slot machines in Oregon, so that was something that was unusual for us, and maybe we're not, we were not supposed to play them, but, at our age, but we did. It was something different.

SG: What part of town was that located in?

GA: It's now called the International District, one block away from Yesler Way, no, Jackson Street, Jackson Street. Jackson is a main, sort of a main street in Seattle. NP Hotel was just half a block away from Jackson Street.

SG: So was there a big Japanese, a large Japanese community in that area before?

GA: Yes, there was, many Japanese businesses.

SG: And that was a Japanese, hotel that catered to Japanese?

GA: I don't know whether they catered to Japanese or not but most likely since there was a Japanese town there, many Japanese restaurants. Of course, there was a Chinese district there too. I think that's King Street, is it? King Street has many Chinese restaurants, used to have, they used to have Chinese restaurants there, too, before the war.

SG: So Mr. Azumano, what positions did you play in basketball and baseball?

GA: Well, basketball I played guard; baseball, outfield. I just want to mention one thing about basketball. We used to have a center whose name was Newton Uyesugi. He obtained his optometry license in Portland. And after the war started, he went to the Midwest and eventually got to Chicago and later invented, he and his partner invented the contact lens. And he also changed his name to Newton Wesley. Instead of Uyesugi, it's now Wesley. He's a multi-millionaire now living in the Chicago area.

SG: You still keep in touch with him?

GA: No, I don't. Unfortunately, we don't keep in touch anymore.

SG: Do you know why he changed his name to Wesley?

GA: I think it's too hard for people to pronounce, U-Y-E-S-U-G-I. It's very difficult for Caucasians to pronounce that name, and so Wesley was sort of a similar version of Uyesugi, so he changed it. That's my guess.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

SG: Any other memories of playing basketball and baseball?

GA: Well, we sure used to have fun. There used to be a girl's league also. And at the end of the season, we'd have, we would have a dance together and we had lots of fun in those days.

SG: This is, the dances were in Portland?

GA: In Portland, yes.

SG: Do you remember about how many people would come to the dances?

GA: Oh, gosh, I'm just guessing, 100, 150, something like that, not too many. But we would rent places like Neighbors of Wood Craft Hall. It's still there. I think we even rented 50th Hall once or twice. I don't remember much more about basketball. Here again, I think I mentioned that we used to go to Seattle to play tournaments, basketball tournaments. We used to have a lot of fun in those days, made lots of friends.

SG: And you mentioned you enjoyed meeting the pretty girls?

GA: Yes, yes. Yeah, I used to have a girlfriend in Seattle, but nothing became of it.

SG: Were there dances up in Seattle also?

GA: Yes, yes. The dances in Seattle, we enjoyed going to them and meeting the new girls and friends in Seattle. And Seattle didn't seem that far to us in those days even with the slower cars and the bad highways. There were only two lane highways in those days as you know. I think it took around four hours to go, drive to Seattle in those days.

SG: What were the dances like?

GA: There was no drinking, so I don't remember any fights. We always had a very congenial group going to the dances, lots of fun, and that was a place where we met new girls and new friends. I miss those days.

SG: What kind of music did you listen to?

GA: Glenn Miller. Boy, I can't remember some of those names now, but music of the '40s I think you'd call them.

SG: So you had live bands play at the dances?

GA: Oh, yeah, yeah. I wish I can remember some of the names of those bands, but I don't.

SG: Were there Japanese bands?

GA: No, no, all Caucasians.

SG: It sounds like fun.

GA: Oh, yeah. I wish I could remember some of the things we did, but as you know after the war, we couldn't do any of those things; that is, everything stopped in 1941.

SG: And how old were you in 1941?

GA: I was twenty-two, I guess, yeah, twenty-two, 1918, so twenty-two.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

SG: So you went to high, where did you go to high school in Portland?

GA: Jefferson.

SG: And what was that like going to Jefferson High School for you?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: What was it like going to Jefferson High School for you?

GA: Well, nothing unusual. In those days, we had to go by streetcar as far as transportation was concerned, and the streetcar ran right in front of our store, so I would catch that and come back by with that way. It was about mile, mile and a half to Jefferson High School from our store. As far as friends were concerned, I had a few friends. I was a member of a fraternity, high school fraternity, made a lot of new friends there. I didn't have any girlfriends there. There weren't, there were very few Japanese girls in Jefferson High School. Most of the Japanese were in the downtown area. They went to Lincoln High.


SG: So Mr. Azumano, you were talking about Jefferson High School and you said you couldn't remember any Japanese girls there. Were there Japanese guys, boys?

GA: Very few, very few. I remember two that I can remember right now. There could have been more, but that's all I remember. In those days, there were many Japanese that lived on the Columbia Boulevard. Their parents operated fruit stands. There must have ten or fifteen, maybe twenty fruit stands on Columbia Boulevard operated by Japanese. Those children would come to Jefferson High. Most of them would come to Jefferson High. I don't remember too many of them.

SG: Were you friends with any of them?

GA: Yes, I was, very few, very few. I know we did not have any organization of Japanese students. We went very independently, of course. I remember one girl who was a year or so ahead of me and then there was another girl who was a year or so ahead of me. And later on, she became one of my insurance clients when I was selling insurance. Her mother and father had died early, so she was managing this fruit stand on Columbia Boulevard. And after she died, her sister donated some money to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center as a result of being willed some money from her sister, the one that operated the fruit stand, so she must have done, did all right.

SG: What happened to those fruit stands eventually?

GA: When the war opened, when the war started, all the fruit stands went bust. They had to close up, no customers. And of course, we had all evacuated, you know. Even before the evacuation, many of them did close because of the lack of business.

SG: Was it most people stopped going to the fruit stands because they were owned by Japanese?

GA: Yes.

SG: I was going to ask you a couple more questions about Jefferson High School. You mentioned you were in a fraternity, what was that like?

GA: Oh, it was a men's, boy's fraternity. I can't remember the reason I went, why it was organized, but it was just a social organization. I think they called it "Phi Delts." And to this day, I still have a friend that belonged to one of the, that same club that I did.

SG: What kind of things did you do at the Phi Delt?

GA: I don't remember. I don't remember what we did. I don't know if they had a motive for being in existence or not, just a bunch of boys that was proud to be a member.

SG: Just kind of hung out and talked?

GA: Yeah.

SG: Were there any other social groups that you were involved with at Jefferson?

GA: I don't think I was. I don't recall.

SG: Did you enjoy going to Jefferson High School?

GA: Yeah, I did, I did. Jefferson used to have a good sport teams, football and basketball, so I enjoyed going to those games. Football games used to be played at Multnomah Stadium. Now they're played at high school fields. But in those days, they were all played at Multnomah Stadium. It was quite a thrill to be able to go to Multnomah Stadium to watch a high school basketball game.

SG: So you would, you and your friends would go watch the basketball and football games?

GA: Yes.

SG: And did you go anywhere after the games?

GA: Oh, I don't think so, no. I don't recall. I didn't drink, so I didn't go to any of those affairs. If there were any, I don't know, but it was just a matter of going just to watch the games.

SG: And were there dances in high school then?

GA: Oh, yeah, there were, yeah. I must have gone to one or two of them, but I remember going to the senior prom. I went with this Chinese girl who was a good friend of my sister's. Anyway, I remember that.

SG: Do you remember her name?

GA: Mildred, Mildred Goon, G-O-O-N.

SG: What was the prom like?

GA: Oh, I don't remember. I don't remember. I must have been in my best and only suit, no tuxes in those days. I don't think I wore a tux. I don't remember that, but enjoyed it, I remember that.

SG: Do people take, did people go out to dinner before the dances?

GA: I'm sure some people did. I don't remember doing it. I don't remember that.

SG: Did you enjoy the academics... you said this, the academic part of Jefferson High School?

GA: I imagine I did. I got fairly good grades, not good grades, but fairly good grades, and I like most of the teachers, so I must have enjoyed it. I remember a couple of the teachers I met in later after graduation from high school. One was a teacher in junior college that I went to and he remembered me, and another teacher also remembered me after graduation. It kind of surprised me because they had so many students. You wouldn't think they would remember, but they do. I didn't like the distance from the school to my home. Sometimes I would walk, and boy, it took a long time to walk home from school. I never walked to school, but I do remember walking from school, home from school about hour and a half, mile and a half in those days, I think.

SG: Do you remember what time you started and what time school was over?

GA: School's over around three p.m., I think. I usually get home, if I walked, it would be about 4 o'clock before I got home, three-thirty, four. Of course nowadays, most kids have cars. Well, I could have come home by streetcar. In those days, streetcars were slow, nothing like MAX that just runs around here now, but we had to, that's something that we had to use if we didn't want to walk. I wish I could remember more about that, but my memory is not good.

SG: Did your mom make lunch for you and your sister when you went to school?

GA: No. We always ate in the school cafeteria or they used to have the little restaurants right across the street from the school. I remember getting a plate lunch for like ten cents, something like that, very reasonable. So my mother never made lunch when we were going to high school or we could eat in the school cafeteria, too, very reasonably.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

SG: Did your parents ever talk about what was their view towards education?

GA: Was their what?

SG: What was their view towards education?

GA: Oh, they wanted me to, both my sister and me to get a good education and go on to college. That was their dream to send us to college, which they did.

SG: So do you remember them talking about it since you were in elementary school?

GA: What was that?

SG: Did they push education since you were very young?

GA: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yes, they did, always wanted us to get a good education.

SG: Do you remember specific things they might have said to you?

GA: I don't. I don't remember what specifics they said, but I know they wanted us to get as much education as possible. When I graduated from high school, I didn't know what my calling would be. I didn't know what kind of business or work I wanted to get into, so I told my dad I wanted to stay out of school for a year, but he insisted that I go. So I enrolled at the Oregon Institute of Technology which was a junior college, and I went two years there, then two years, final two years University of Oregon. But anyway, my dad didn't want me to stay out of school that one year that I wanted.

SG: Why do you think it was important for your parents that you get an education?

GA: Well, they just felt that education meant a great deal to a man's future, so they always stressed education.

SG: And they stressed your sister's education also?

GA: Yes. She attended a junior college called Saint Helen's Hall in those days. It's no longer here. Then she went on to Willamette University. When the war started, she had to leave. And then she enrolled at, she was accepted at Earlhem College in Indiana where she got her degree.

SG: What did she get her degree in, do you remember?

GA: I don't remember. Then she later got her master's at the University of Chicago, but I don't remember what it was in, probably education.

SG: Do you remember other values that your parents, that were very important to your parents?

GA: Well, one of the things was honesty. I know they always stressed honesty, always, never do anything that would hurt the name of the family. I don't recall anything else.

SG: What do you... I mean, I can phrase it another way. How do you think your parents might have influenced you in who you've become or who you became?

GA: Well, one thing, they were very hard workers, so that might have influenced me to get into something that didn't require so much work. They put so many hours into their business. As I mentioned before, from six in the morning 'til about nine at night, that's long hours every day. And even Sundays, they would open the store, not as long hours but they would open it for half a day or so, and I would have to work when it's open, so I must have felt that I needed to get into something that doesn't require so much work. That's all I can remember.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

SG: So you mentioned you went to OIT after high school?

GA: Yes.

SG: And what did you study at OIT?

GA: I think just the general course, yeah, just the general course. I wanted to go to the business school at University of Oregon later, so I'm sure I took courses that would precede that type of education.

SG: And what was going to school like for you at OIT?

GA: What was it like?

SG: Uh-huh. Do you remember?

GA: Well, I remember I had a good time there. Oh, by the way, I played basketball too on the OIT basketball team which I had lots of fun, made many friends. It was a very small school, I'm sure you know that, and I still had some friends left still living that we went to school together. As you know, I'm in my eighties now, so there aren't too many people left that I went to school with. But I guess the most I can say is that I had a good time going to OIT. I had some good teachers and some who verified my character when the war started, and I needed reference letters. you know. and some, one or two of my professors wouldn't vouch for me after I left the area.

SG: What kind of letters would they write for you?

GA: Character letters when I was trying to get a job in the Midwest. After the, after we were evacuated, we would try to get out of the relocation camps. And once we got a job or was accepted at a school, we could leave the camps, you know, like Minidoka camp, and therefore I needed letters of reference, and I relied on some old professors to write letters of reference for me.

SG: When the U.S. government started the evacuations, you were at OIT?

GA: No, no. I had already graduated. I went to University of Oregon and graduated in 1940. In 1941, the war began. In 1942, the evacuation started. So by that time, I was back in the store when the government clamped down on us.

SG: When you're, let's back up a little bit. In terms of University of Oregon, what was it like as a Japanese or a Japanese American to attend the University of Oregon?

GA: Well, I felt no different I'm sure than others, other students, I felt no discrimination except when I was graduating, I, you know, when college students graduate, corporations, different corporations, send their representatives around to schools to interview prospective workers for them, and so I asked a professor if he would recommend me to this one company, and he would not do it. He says there's no chance for a Japanese American to get into this type of work, so I wasn't allowed to interview, be interviewed by the company representative. I felt very, very hurt about that one.

SG: What kind of work was it?

GA: I can't remember now. I can't remember. It could have been Standard Oil, but I'm not sure. But it wasn't the company that discriminated, it was professor that wouldn't allow me the chance to be interviewed. That really hurt me.

SG: Was there any other experiences like that you had at University of Oregon?

GA: No, no. That was, as I recall, that was the only one. That was the only one.

SG: It sounds like you enjoyed going to school at the university?

GA: Oh, I did, yeah. I only went there two years, but I did get my degree and that helped me out all throughout these years.

SG: Were you a part of any social clubs at that time?

GA: No, no, just a student.

SG: So you really were focused on your studies?

GA: Yes. I was not that good of a student, but I did not get involved with other, I was not a member of any fraternity, just a student in business school.

SG: Were most of your friends at that time, did you have a lot of Japanese friends or --

GA: No. I had a few Japanese friends, yes, at the University of Oregon, but most of my friends were Caucasian. We got along perfectly well. Of course, this was before the war. 1940 is when I graduated.

SG: Do you remember any activities you did outside of school possibly with your friends?

GA: Outside of school?

SG: Uh-huh, to relax or to...

GA: Well, I remember going on a beer bust one day, but that's about it.

SG: What's a beer bust?

GA: Well, where students get together and just drink beer. There were a keg of beer. I'm sure some of the guys got pretty drunk, but I'm not much of a drinker. So anyway, we had a party. I remember going to some barn or something like that, I can't remember what it was now, to Springfield. Springfield, Oregon, is just a few miles from Eugene, Oregon. That was it. Nothing became of it.

SG: Was it hard to meet women in college or...

GA: Gosh, I don't remember that. I did start to go with a girl, a Japanese girl, down there who I later married, and so that was the only girl that I got involved with down there.

SG: She went to, she was a student at university --

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: Was she in the business school also?

GA: No. She was in the social science school.

SG: Do you remember how you met her?

GA: Well, her family and my family were friends from way back, so I did know her. And somehow or other, I started dating her down there, and that's how I got involved.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

SG: And when you graduated, what was your parents, how did they, what's the word, when you graduated college, how did they feel?

GA: Well, I'm sure they were very proud of me. I remember he drove down in a brand new car that wasn't my car. But anyway, I would drive it most of the time, and I'm sure that was one way to show that they were proud of me. But anyway, both of them, both my mother and father left the store to come down to my graduation. They won't do that for anybody else.

SG: So do you remember them saying anything to you that day?

GA: I don't. I don't remember. All I can say is that I'm sure they were proud of me. I was no outstanding student, but at least I got a degree.

SG: And were you able to find a job out of college?

GA: No, no, so I worked in the store.

SG: Do you have any idea why it might have been difficult for you to --

GA: Well, those were the days that Japan was involved in a war with China and there were many so-called atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China, so there was a feeling against Japanese even in U.S., in fact all over, so there was a lot of discrimination against Japanese, and a very few Japanese got any good job at that time. I remember one friend, he had graduated from law school here in Portland, but he went, he was not allowed to become a member of the bar. He was not allowed to practice law even though he had graduated from law school because he was Japanese, so he got mad, went back to Japan, went to Japan and got a job in Japan.

SG: Did he ever come back to --

GA: No, never came back. He was a press, he was a correspondent, he was a newspaper man. He became a newspaper man in Japan.

SG: What was going through your mind at this time, Mr. Azumano? You're looking for a job but not being able to find one after you'd gone through all this schooling.

GA: Oh, I don't think I was bitter, and I wasn't really trying to get a job because my father did want me to work in the store because he was, he became ill and he needed someone to manage the store so that was something that I could go back on; therefore, I really didn't look for a job seriously. But had I looked for a job seriously, I'm sure that I would have been discriminated against at that time. This is 1940, '41.

SG: Do you feel any discrimination while you're working at the store at this time?

GA: At the store, I didn't. No, I didn't feel any, same customers used to patronize us and sales were up to snuff in those days.

SG: Did you experience any general discrimination when you're walking down the street or --

GA: In those days, oh, no. No, I didn't feel that. Even though these so-called atrocities were committed by Japanese soldiers in China, I didn't feel that animosity. I don't remember any.

SG: You had mentioned that your father was sick and your family expected you to come back and run the store. Were there any other expectations your parents had for you as the oldest child in the family?

GA: I don't know of any. I don't remember their expressing any particular position that I should try to get into. I don't remember that. I'm sure that he was happy that I would, I would manage his grocery store in his illness although my mother was capable of doing that too. But I don't recall his expressing any particular goal for me.

SG: Do you think they have different idea of how they raised you and your sister being a boy and a girl?

GA: Any what?

SG: Any difference in terms of what they wanted for you or how they raised you versus your sister?

GA: Oh, I'm sure that they wanted me as a man to be successful in life in business, so I don't know what they had, what kind of aspiration they had for my sister. I don't think I ever heard it. I don't remember.

SG: So at this time, you're helping your parents out at the store. Were you married at this time?

GA: No.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

SG: When did you get, when were you, when did you get married?

GA: Well, we got married later, 1943, after we were evacuated.

SG: So you were married in the internment camps?

GA: Well, it was during that time, although we were actually married in Twin Falls, Idaho, not in the camp, but, and I had already left the camp. My wife was still in the camp. But we got married outside of the camp if that makes sense.

SG: Do you remember where you got married at, what type of --

GA: A church, Presbyterian church in Twin Falls, Idaho.

SG: Were you raised as Presbyterian?

GA: No. I was raised a Methodist, yeah, Methodist. I don't know why we selected this church, but we did. I don't remember.

SG: So your parents, they converted to the Methodist church after they came to the United States?

GA: Yes. After several years, they converted from Buddhism to Methodist.

SG: Do you have any idea why they did that?

GA: I think the biggest reason is that his boyhood friend Kagawa became a Christian. He became a great leader in Christianity in Japan, and he visited Portland one time. I'm sure he's the one that converted my father.

SG: Was that unusual for a Japanese family to go to Methodist church?

GA: Yes, yes. In those days, very few were out of the Buddhist religion; although, our Methodist church here in Portland got started in 1893 with a very small membership, but it did get started in 1893.

SG: And that's where you and your family went?

GA: That's where we go now.

SG: So you've been going to that, the same church for --

GA: Well, I've been going there since 1937.

SG: That's amazing. So you mentioned you were working at your parents' grocery store when the war broke out, and at that time, you said Japan was committing atrocities. How did you feel about what was happening, what Japan was doing?

GA: Well, I thought it was very bad, very bad. I was very disgusted with the Japanese, of course, a lot of this is propaganda. But still, you know, what you read is, made me feel very bad.

SG: Do you think it affected you differently being a Japanese American?

GA: Oh, I think so, yes.

SG: In what way do you think it was different?

GA: Well, just the fact that there's Japanese, I was Japanese, of Japanese ancestry, I just felt very disgusted really.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

SG: And do you remember when the U.S. declared war on Japan?

GA: Yes. By the way, I should also go back a little ways here. In June of 1941, I was drafted into the U.S. Army. This was when I was working in the grocery, my dad's grocery store and I wasn't able to, well, I didn't even try to get the deferment, but I was drafted in June of 1941. But in February of '42, I was transferred to the reserve corps just because I was Japanese, 1942.

SG: So how did your parents feel about you being drafted at that time?

GA: Well, they felt that I had to serve my duty, so they were willing to let me go.

SG: And how did you feel being drafted?

GA: I didn't want to go, but I had to do my duty and then went. This is June of '41 when naturally war had not been declared, but apparently, there was a lot of feeling between Japan and U.S. at that time, but I don't recall anything happening affecting my ancestry at that time. I felt like I was just an ordinary U.S. soldier and I had to serve my country.

SG: Did your parents ever express how they felt toward what Japan was doing at that time?

GA: No, they didn't. As far as I can remember, they didn't.

SG: Do you know if they had any feelings about their son joining the war against Japan?

GA: I don't remember their expressing any concern. I don't remember that.

SG: So you, when the U.S. declared war on Japan, you were in the army reserves?

GA: No. I was in the army, active duty. It was February 1942 that they released me.

SG: So how did you feel when you heard that America was declaring war on Japan?

GA: Well, I felt very bad, very bad. I felt very depressed.

SG: What was going, was there anything specific going through your mind in terms of the thoughts you had?

GA: I guess I felt very bad that Japan would attack Hawaii. I mean, I was reading the newspapers like everybody else was and didn't know the full, full story behind all this, so I was reading all the newspapers just like everyone else, and I felt very badly that Japan would be attacking U.S., very bad.

SG: As a Japanese American, hearing that Japan attacked the U.S. --

GA: Yeah.

SG: Did that make you feel, how did that, you mentioned you felt depressed, was it because you were Japanese American?

GA: Yeah, yeah.

SG: During the war or when they drafted you, what type of work did they ask you to do in the army?

GA: Well, first of all, there was basic training. But after I was transferred, after basic training, I was transferred to a place called Fort McDowell, California, which is on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. It was an overseas replacement depot, and that's on February, in February of '42, excuse me, that's where I was on December 7, 1941. And I remember all of us on duty there had to bear a rifle, were stationed around the island at that time on the night of December 7th. I hardly knew how to shoot a gun in those days. But anyway, that was December 7, 1941. And in February of 1942, I along with about six or seven other Japanese Americans on this post were transferred to the reserve corps.

SG: Was it all Japanese Americans in your --

GA: In just, in our post, in our camp. Later, I heard that many of my Japanese American friends were transferred to inland posts when war was declared. I remember one family, one friend was taken, transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, several of them were taken to Fort Riley, Kansas. But in my particular post, the CO said you're being out. You're taken out of the army into the reserve corps.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

SG: At that time, you heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed, did you know where it was located?

GA: Where Pearl Harbor was? Oh yeah, yeah.

SG: So you're aware of what it meant when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

GA: Oh, yeah. It was the very center of activities in Hawaii and the base, big naval base, I had heard that.

SG: Do you remember some of the conversations you had with your Japanese American army buddies at that time?

GA: I wasn't in association with them. I knew they were there, but I never talked to them.

SG: Even though they were on the same post, you didn't talk to them?

GA: No.

SG: Did other people in your unit give you, did how they treated change after Pearl Harbor?

GA: They changed my attitude you say?

SG: Well, did the people in your unit treat you differently after Pearl Harbor?

GA: No, no, no, the same, no difference as I recall.

SG: And so after they transferred you into the reserves, what was your, what were you responsible for at that time?

GA: Well, I was a, this CO of mine was a nut on statistics, so he had me doing all kinds of statistical work. That's all I did for him in the office, nothing to do with guns or anything.

SG: Did you enjoy math?

GA: Oh, yeah, I enjoyed it, yeah.


SG: Where were you stationed at this time?

GA: At Fort McDowell.

SG: So they kept you on the West Coast?

GA: Yeah.

SG: Do you know why they would, why they would leave you on the West Coast even though you were Japanese Americans, or you're Japanese American?

GA: Well, I don't think they took much action in the first part of the war. War started in December 7. They took my action with me in February. And as I say, I was released, and some of my, after I got home, I learned that many of my Japanese American friends were being transferred to inland posts, but I was released all because of, just because I was Japanese American.

SG: So some Japanese Americans were released from the military?

GA: Yes.

SG: And some continued to stay --

GA: And transferred to inland posts.

SG: How did you feel when you were released?

GA: I felt very bad, very bad. In fact, I even got a letter from the commanding officer saying that it was because I was of Japanese ancestry that I was released and that he would take me back if this policy was ever changed.

SG: So if you had your way, you would have wanted to stay?

GA: Oh, yeah, yeah.

SG: Why would you want to stay in the army?

GA: Well, just to be patriotic, just to do my duty. As a matter of fact, in February of 1943, the U.S. government started to take volunteers again from Japanese Americans, so I wrote to the War Department because I was in the reserves. I didn't know whether I would be retaken again. And I said that if I'm going to be retaken, I'd like to go now to be with my friends who are volunteering, and the War Department's response was they had discharge paper for me, no explanation, just a discharge paper, honorable discharge.

SG: That's strange. Do you know how they decided who was staying in?

GA: I have no idea.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

SG: So after you were discharged honorably, what happened after that?

GA: Well naturally, I did not go in then, and they just, let's see, that was '43. I went out, I left the camp, got my okay, release from the FBI and went to Dayton, Ohio, to work, to seek work, and I got a job in a battery manufacturing company in Dayton, Ohio.

SG: So where were your, when you were released, where were your parents?

GA: They were still in the internment camp, Minidoka relocation camp.

SG: So when you heard about the relocation efforts, you were in the military; is that right?

GA: No, I was also interned. I was also interned in May of 1943, '42 or '43. Let's see... let's see now, war started in '41, I was released in '42, and then I went to camp in May of '42. In September of '42, I was taken, we were all sent to Minidoka camp, so it was in May of 1943 that I left Minidoka to go to Dayton, Ohio.

SG: So you were working in your parents' grocery store when they started removing everyone?

GA: Uh-huh.

SG: How did you, what was going through the family, your family at that time when you first heard of the evacuation orders?

GA: What was the question again?

SG: How did your family respond to the evacuation orders?

GA: Oh, naturally, they didn't like it. They were opposed to it but what can you do? You had to go. By the way, when the war started in December of '41, in February of '42, the same month that I was released from the army, my father was taken by the FBI because he was a member of some nationalistic society for Japan. The group was called Sokoukai I think it was. And because he was a member of that, he was taken and put into an Immigration and Naturalization detention camp, and so he was separate. He was taken separately from the family. The family was taken in May of 1942 to the camp.

SG: How long was your father in detention for?

GA: Oh, he was there from February 1942 'til the spring of '44, yeah, '44, he was released. He was released and then came back to join my mother in Minidoka assembly center, Minidoka relocation camp.

SG: Were you able to see your father during those two years?

GA: No. I went to visit him but that was all.

SG: Did he say, what did he say to you when you went to visit your father?

GA: Naturally, he was glad to see me. I can't remember whatever, what else he said. We were always trying to get him out because he had done nothing, but the immigration office wouldn't listen to us. But he was released in about February of '44, '44.

SG: Did he ever complain about how he was being treated or --

GA: No, no. They were treated decently I'm sure.

SG: When, did he request anything for you to bring to him?

GA: No, no. He didn't need anything.

SG: How did your father being taken by the FBI affect your family?

GA: Well, we were only a family of four, my mother, father, sister, brother, and me; so naturally, it affected all of us. We were bitter about it because he had done nothing to offend this country, but I'm sure he felt the same way. Why would he be taken? But many of the -- by the way, he was a leader in the Portland community before war, before the war, and many of the community leaders were taken just like my father when the war was declared.

SG: How did it affect the grocery store when he was taken?

GA: Not too much because my mother was managing at that time. And by the way, the day he was taken I came home from the army, that was February of 1942, and I told you I was released in February of '42, and I came home the same day my dad was taken. He was taken in the morning and I came home in the afternoon.

SG: You must have been shocked to hear that.

GA: Yeah, yeah, I was, sure. I was very much surprised.

SG: And they gave no specific reason other than he's being a community leader?

GA: That's right. Well, they wouldn't give me any reason at that time, no reason whatever. Later, we found out that because he was a member of the society.

SG: You were, were you actually there when the FBI came?

GA: No.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

SG: So when did you, do you remember when you first heard about or received a notice that you were to evacuate?

GA: Yes. When was that?

SG: Oh, do you remember receiving that first, the notice to evacuate?

GA: Well, you know, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt gave out this edict that we would evacuated, but he didn't tell us when at that time. But in May or late April, bulletins were put on the telephone posts and everywhere that Japanese were being evacuated, had to leave this area by a certain day. That was late April and our date was May 2. We had to leave the community by May 2. We had to be in this assembly center in North Portland by May the 2.

SG: So you didn't, did you ever receive a direct notice?

GA: No. It was just announced on these bulletin boards.

SG: So you had about a week to --

GA: Yeah, something like that. We knew we had to go sometime, but no exact date was given us until about a week ahead, maybe two weeks, something like that.

SG: Do you remember the conversations that you and, you had with your mom and sister at this time?

GA: Well, I'm sure the conversations of what to take and things like that. We were allowed to only take what we can carry.

SG: Do you remember what items you decided to take as a family?

GA: I remember one item was a radio. I had purchased a radio, battery operated radio. I know that was one of the things I wanted to take. But other than that, just necessary clothing, and I can't remember any books that I wanted. But that's all I had, just the things that I could carry, two hands.

SG: What happened, what did you do with the rest of the items?

GA: We left, you mean the household things, we left in the basement of the home that we were renting. The people who owned the house said we can leave our stuff in the basement, so we did, all our furniture and things we couldn't take, we did that. But when we came home, most of it was gone.

SG: What happened to it?

GA: Somebody stole them.

SG: What did the family say to you?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: What did the owners of the house say to you?

GA: Well, they were, it had been sold to other people, so there's no way I can trace what happened.

SG: Were the owners Japanese?

GA: No, no.

SG: So basically everything was stolen?

GA: Basically.

SG: And what happened to the store at this time?

GA: We had sold it. When we evacuated, we had sold it to some Chinese people, but we only got ten cents on the dollar.

SG: So the Chinese family got a very good deal. So you sold it for one-tenth of what it was worth?

GA: Yes.

SG: When this was happening, how did you feel personally toward the U.S. government?

GA: Well, I must have felt very downhearted the way the government was treating us because we were, my mother was not a citizen, my father was not a citizen, but my sister and I were, and we didn't think that they could do that to citizens, but they did.

SG: Did your mom ever say anything to you about --

GA: No, no. She felt very badly, but she didn't say anything.

SG: It seems like it would be such a tough position to be in. How did you reconcile the fact that the U.S. government was doing this to your family and at the same time, you wanted to be patriotic you had mentioned earlier, how were you able to reconcile those two feelings?

GA: Very difficult, very difficult to do that. I just felt that the government had let us down and later, you know, all this evacuation business was unconstitutional. Later, the government admitted that; therefore, they gave us each person who were evacuated $20,000 as you know.

SG: You mentioned that you had wanted to serve at a patriotic duty. There must have been something inside of you that you felt it was worth or made you patriotic about the United States even though the government had been doing this to your family.

GA: You mean the fact that I had gone into the army, is that what you're saying?

SG: Yeah, and you said you still wanted to volunteer --

GA: Oh, later, yeah.

SG: Even though this was happening to your family, there must have been inside of you that, something that you believed in about the United States.

GA: Well, yes. I'm sure, I'm sure I felt that way. The fact that my friends were going in wanted, I wanted to go with them and that's why I wrote to the government, but the government response was no, you cannot go in. That's what I, that's what I interpreted it as because they're just giving me a discharge paper. But I felt very badly about that, the fact that they gave me these without any explanation.

SG: So the fact that even though the U.S. government was taking your family and it bothered you, you still had a sense of duty and responsibility to volunteer?

GA: Oh, I think I did. I think I did. Otherwise, I don't think I would have felt that way. I'm sure I felt a duty to my country.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

SG: And so when they, when you were evacuated, can you tell me what it, what happened to you and your family?

GA: When we were evacuated?

SG: Uh-huh.

GA: Well, we were placed in this assembly center out here. Are you familiar with the International Exposition grounds? That's where we were taken. In those days, we used to call it the stockyards. We felt very badly about being taken there, but we couldn't get out of it. We just had to, well, we could have gone voluntarily away from the Pacific Coast earlier if we wanted to, but I didn't know where to go, so I waited 'til the government took us. The government did allow us, did allow a certain time, time limits to leave the area voluntarily, but most of us stayed as you know. Most of us stayed to go into the assembly centers.

SG: For your family and the families that did volunteer, do you know why some families decided to stay and others volunteered to go?

GA: I'm sure they didn't know what to do or to go. We didn't know what to do, where to go. Some people had friends or relatives living in Utah or Idaho or somewhere. They would go to there, and some did that I know of, but most of the Japanese Americans stayed to be placed in the assembly center.

SG: How long were you at the assembly center?

GA: From May until September.

SG: Do you remember some of the things that went on at the center?

GA: Well, we had sport activities. They allowed baseball and basketball to be played. The Portland Park Bureaus provided us equipment, sporting goods, sporting -- sport goods, so we could play all these sports. They were very good. I happened to like calisthenics, so they gave me the position of instructing the calisthenics classes. They had schoolteachers in the group so they had schools, grammar school and high schools for students in the assembly center.

SG: Was anyone paid to do this work?

GA: Oh, they were paid sixteen dollars a month. All of us were paid something if we did some chore. The teachers were paid sixteen dollars a month.

SG: And your job was to be a calisthenics teacher?

GA: I was not paid for that. That was volunteer. I worked in there as a bookkeeper for sixteen dollars a month.

SG: What kind of bookkeeping did you do?

GA: I'm sure it's about the expenses of the center there. I can't remember now. I can't remember what kind of bookkeeping I did, but I was a bookkeeper.

SG: How did they decide who did what job, do you remember?

GA: They had administrators there, many administrators. I can't remember how many, but they were the ones that instructed us.

SG: And what were the living conditions like?

GA: Each family was assigned one room with partition room but no ceiling, so you can hear the neighbors talking in every, everywhere you went, you can hear neighbors talking because there was no ceiling, and there was a doorway but no door. The only way you can seek any privacy is to put a blanket or a sheet or something in the doorway. It's only one room per family depending, regardless of how big the family was, so some rooms were very crowded. There were only I think two latrines in the whole area. Three thousand people were there, just one shower room. There were several showers in the room, but there's only one shower room as I recall.

SG: So it sounds like not a very pleasant place to live?

GA: Oh, gosh, no, no. And the smell was awful because of the, because as you remember this is a stockyard you see, so you can smell the manure of the horses and cows on which our floors were laid, or planked floors, wooden floors were on top of the dirt where the cows and sheep were kept, so the smell was terrible especially during the hot weather that we had that summer.

SG: Sounds awful.

GA: Uh-huh, it was. And the food was not very good. There was plenty of food, but some of the food that we were provided us, the Japanese would never eat, like beef hearts and kidneys and things like that. We'd never eat that stuff.

SG: So there's no Japanese food?

GA: No. They served rice but no pure Japanese food, no.

SG: How did people treat each other in the center at that time?

GA: Oh, very well. Everybody was at ease. They didn't have to work. The only thing was the crowded conditions that made it very bad, crowded and smelly conditions.

SG: So when you're at the Expo Center, what kind of information were you getting from the U.S. government?

GA: Oh, I don't think we were getting any information. I don't recall it. You mean information like what?

SG: What was happening, what was going to happen next?

GA: To us, oh, no information like that, no.

SG: So you really didn't know what was happening?

GA: No.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

SG: And so you said you were there for most of the summer and then what happened after that?

GA: In September when they told us we're going to move out, so then early September, we were put on the trains, and they didn't tell us where we're going, just took what we could carry and placed us on these old trains. The trains were real old with just hard wooden seats, and they wouldn't allow us to open up the blinds, so we could see outside to see where we were. We had to keep them down all the time. If we tried to open up the blinds, the guards who were on the train with us would stop us right away.

SG: So it was dark the entire train?

GA: Yeah, yeah.

SG: How long did the train trip take?

GA: Well, as I recall, it was an overnight trip. It was from Portland to, we found out when we got there that it was in Idaho, and it was near Twin Falls. I can't remember the exact spot where the train stopped, but we were placed on these big trucks where the train stopped and then taken to the camp.


SG: So before we took the break, we were talking about your train ride up to Idaho, to Twin Falls, and you'd mentioned it was dark the whole ride up and what --

GA: Well, excuse me. They had train lights on, but you can't, you couldn't see outside.

SG: What was going on, what were you, what was going on in your mind or what were people talking about at that time?

GA: Oh, I can't remember what they were talking about. All I wanted to do was to see where we were, you know, so I wanted to see outside, but they wouldn't let us do it.

SG: Where, did you have any idea where they were taking you?

GA: No, no.

SG: Were you ever fearful of what might happen to you?

GA: Oh, I'm sure we were, yeah. I can't remember the exact feeling I had, but I must have felt that way because we didn't know where we were going.

SG: And at this time it was you, your sister, and your mother?

GA: Yes.

SG: And did you have any contact with your father?

GA: Not at that time, but we were in correspondence. We wrote every once in a while. Letters were... what do you call it,, what's the word, they looked at each letter that came in and out, the authorities did.

SG: So after, what happened after you reached Idaho?

GA: Well, then we were placed in buses, placed in buses to go to the camp. And when we arrived at our destination, we ran into this duststorm, just terrible, so windy and dusty. It was a very unwelcome visit, arrival at our destination.

SG: And did everyone, all the buses went to the same destination?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: And how long was the bus ride?

GA: I don't remember. I don't remember how long it was. It must not have been very long because I'm sure the trains were fixed to arrive at a certain point fairly close to the assembly, fairly close to the camp, but I don't know exactly where it was now. I have a feeling it was Jerome, Idaho, but I'm not, I can't remember.

SG: So the bus took you to Camp Minidoka?

GA: Yes.

SG: And did you know that was going to be your permanent home when you got off the bus?

GA: I don't think we did. We were not told. We're just following instructions to get on the bus, to get on the trucks.

SG: When did you find out that this was going to be a long-term stay for you?

GA: I don't remember that. I don't remember that. It must have been after we arrived in our rooms, you know, to find that they had prepared all this. We must have thought it's going to be sometime before we got out of there. I don't recall them giving us any instructions.

SG: So you just kind of realized after a while that this was it?

GA: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

SG: When you first saw the camp, what did you think?

GA: Well, it was very, very discouraging because as I say the wind and the dust, the dust storm, and you must remember that the camp was still under construction; therefore, all this dust was being created with the wind blowing it up. It was just a terrible mess. It was a very unwelcome arrival.

SG: What were your rooms like?

GA: Just one room, bare room with a potbelly stove in the middle and cots, that's all, no chairs, no tables, one light hanging from the ceiling, one bare light. And our room was a, since there were only three of us, it was the smallest unit, and so it must have been about oh, I'm guessing 10 by 12 something like that, one room, three of us. The bathrooms were, we had to go outside, walk about 50, 75 feet to get to the bathroom and the shower room too. We had no plumbing, no faucet, no water inside the room.

SG: And were you able to choose your own room?

GA: No. They had assigned it to us, the larger the family, the larger the room.

SG: What was the overall feeling that, of the camps?

GA: What was our feeling?

SG: Yeah, overall feeling of the people when you arrived at the camps?

GA: Oh, I'm sure everyone was very discouraged because of the, first of all, the wind and the dust. The fact that these, we were only provided one room for the whole family was just a very despairing feeling.

SG: So it sounds very difficult.

GA: Oh, it was, yeah. Then we went to the latrine, the, what do you call these, toilets were just placed in a row, no partitions between the toilets, so we had no privacy at all. Same as the shower, the shower heads all lined up, no partitions.

SG: They didn't separate men and women?

GA: Oh, yeah, they separated men and women all right, but there was no other privacy.

SG: How was it, how were you able to get through the, these difficult times being evacuated and sent to the expo center and sent to the camp? What made you be able to go through it?

GA: I really can't remember that. We just assumed that we had to do this, so we did. No one, as I recall, no one really said no. We just followed instructions, not much we can do about it, I don't think. Even if we objected, I don't think there was a thing they could do.

SG: How did you, once you settled into camp life at Minidoka, what was that like?

GA: Well, I was very much in a very low mood, depressed mood because of all this. I don't know how to explain it, but it was just a very down and out feeling to have to go into someplace like that. Well, of course, we had the same situation, almost the same situation in the assembly center one room per family with latrines and toilets, no privacy. It was just a forlorn feeling.

SG: Were you able to get furniture eventually?

GA: No, no furniture, no. You can make it, you can build it if you wanted to, and you can go out and buy it if you wanted to, but I don't know how you would bring it in, so everybody did without. Some clever people did make their own furniture.

SG: Where did they get the materials?

GA: I think like we did, I decided to make a sort of a dresser for my girlfriend at that time. We went to steal lumber in the lumber store yards, storage area, just took the boards out. That's where I got my lumber.

SG: Was it pretty easy to sneak the boards out?

GA: Oh, yeah.

SG: Did anyone ever get caught taking --

GA: I don't think so. I'm sure they realized what they were for, so they didn't object to it nor did they put us in jail or anything like that.

SG: So even though they knew you were making furniture out of this wood, they looked the other way?

GA: I think they did. There was not that much furniture made. In my case, it was just this one small dresser, so very little lumber that I used. They couldn't make too much for the rooms because the rooms were too small anyway. When the beds were in there, well, you take three in our family, three beds in one small room, there isn't much else, much more room to put furniture.

SG: Where did you, where were you able to get the other materials or tools to build that dresser?

GA: I don't remember where I got them now. I don't, I must have had a hammer. I could have taken the hammer, but I don't remember. I don't remember that. You also have to remember like when they have a family of say of five kids, mother and father, seven beds in one room, there isn't much room for much else.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

SG: So where did most people spend their time at camp?

GA: They had, gosh, I don't remember that even. There was no public library or anything like that. They did have a movie house where they showed movies some nights of the week, not every night, but there was no lounging area, so people just spent their days in their rooms I'm sure just sitting on the bed. Of course, we had the mess room. You can go into the mess room with the table and the benches, but that's all they had in the mess room where you could sit, you know, these table and benches, that combination seat and table put together. You could not move the benches unless you move the whole table.

SG: So do you remember how you spent your days there, Mr. Azumano?

GA: Well, I used to work in an office, so I would go there. There, of course, you had a desk and chair. That's all I remember there. And of course we worked from about nine to about five or eight-thirty to five, something like that. And most people had something to do. They could work doing something if they wanted to, get sixteen or nineteen dollars a day, something like that.

SG: Were there any social activities to pass the time?

GA: Well, they had movies like I say. They had dances every once in a while. They had a... what do you call it, a store, what do you call these little stores?

SG: A general store?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: A general store?

GA: No. They used to call them canteens where you can buy candy and a few things like that, but it was a very small store. There was no seating area. So I don't recall any area where you can congregate and sit and talk, just your rooms.

SG: What kind of movies did they show at the movie house?

GA: I don't remember now.

SG: American movies mostly?

GA: American movies, yes. Now they could have had Japanese movies, too, but I'm not sure about that. You know, these people that used to bring the film around to the communities, those people also worked there, so I'm sure they had some ways to get those films, and I'm sure they showed some of those.

SG: And what were, you mentioned dances before, what were those like?

GA: No bands, it's just recorded music, and they would, I forgot where they would have these dances now. They didn't have any community halls as I remember. I don't know where they had those dances, maybe in the mess room moving tables. They did have dances every now and then. I don't remember what else young kids did in those days. I don't remember.

SG: Were there other things that people at the camp did to make their situation more livable?

GA: Somehow, they found these, some kind of shells in the fields, so ladies would make some kind of necklace out of them. But as far as making it more livable, I don't know what, well, some people did, make their own gardens. They had little dirt area in front of the doors, so they would plant flowers or vegetables and get the seeds somehow and plant their vegetables and flowers there. Some of the places looked very nice with the beautiful flowers. I don't remember anybody buying furniture to bring in. I don't know how you could make those places more livable. I don't know.

SG: Was there, did people engage in artwork or anything else?

GA: Oh, yeah. People who had talent did artwork, yes. I don't remember any shows, but, art shows, but they must have had something like that. The Japanese are skilled, some Japanese are skilled in calligraphy. I know they had those classes. I heard that in Utah, the Topaz camp, there was an artist called Obata. He was a famous man, famous artist, and he had classes in painting, art painting, but I don't recall anything like that in Minidoka. There must have been some people who had talent. Yeah, I do now recall some pictures being drawn about the camp by amateur artists in the camp, but I didn't, please remember, I did not stay too long in the camp. We went there in September of 1942. As soon as I got there, we went to work out in the fields, sugar beet fields. We had a team. There were several teams. The farmers on that area needed farm work, farm laborers, so they came to the camp to solicit farm laborers, and we formed teams to go out to work in the farms, sugar beet farms. I joined a team to work, and we didn't have to stay in the camp. We stayed in the farm labor camps outside of the camp. Farm labor camps are put together by the government where you could sleep and eat in the mess room if you wanted to and go out daily on the farms. Farmers would come every morning to pick you up. We did that.

SG: What was it like living in those labor camps?

GA: Well, here again, it's just one room with, several bunks in one room, just a sleeping facility is all it was and heat, little stove to keep the heat. That was all there was to it. Then there was a mess hall where you could buy your meals if you wanted to. We did that.

SG: Were these both men and women?

GA: Yes, yes, both men and women out to work on the farms.

SG: And both men and women stayed in these labor camps?

GA: Yes, yes. I'm sure the ladies stayed in separate rooms, but they could stay there.

SG: Were the conditions better in these labor camps than the internment camps?

GA: No. No. The rooms were filled with bunks. Instead of beds, there were bunks, you know, double deckers, so at least more people can sleep in one room.

SG: During this time you were there at Minidoka in the labor camps, what did you, what did you miss most about being in Portland?

GA: Oh, well, one thing of course is we got to eat in the restaurants. Most Japanese like Chinese food, so we missed that mostly, a great deal I think. Of course, when we got, when we were working in Twin Falls, we had the freedom all right, but still, we didn't have the freedom to go back to our homes on the Pacific Coast. We had to stay from the so-called boundary line that the government had created, so we still lacked that freedom. I think one of the things I missed most a great deal was, you know, every morning I read the morning Oregonian, and I couldn't do that over there. There's no, well, there was a newspaper all right, but I missed that morning paper. I don't recall anything else that I missed. Of course, I missed my automobile. That's one of the biggest thing you miss is your car.

SG: What kind of car did you have?

GA: A Pontiac, 1940 Pontiac. This is one that my father had bought at the time of my graduation, that was 1940. So that was a beautiful car for me. I don't remember anything else. It's very difficult for me to go way back there to try to remember some of these things.

SG: Do you remember how the guards, how you were treated by the guards in the camps?

GA: Oh, they treated us without any hard feelings. We got along very well. As a matter of fact, we didn't encounter them very much. We knew they were there, but we didn't have any encounters with them.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

SG: And you had mentioned that your girlfriend was in the same camp. Was that, you were dating before you went to --

GA: Yes.

SG: And it's just coincidental you ended up at the same camp?

GA: What's that?

SG: It's coincidental that you ended up at the same camp?

GA: Yes, that's right. We could have been separated.

SG: What did you do for dates at the camp with your girlfriend?

GA: We couldn't do much. We'd just go out for walks. That's all I remember, just going out for walks, not much that we can do there, no privacy. I left the camp in April of '43, so I didn't spend too much time there.

SG: Where did you go in April?

GA: I went to Ohio, Ohio. I went to work for a battery manufacturing company, automobile battery manufacturing company in Dayton, Ohio, as a laborer. I worked there until September, and then I decided to come back to Idaho to get married, which I did.

SG: How were you able to find a job at the factory?

GA: There were, the War Relocation Authority had different, had offices in different cities trying to find jobs for Japanese Americans, and they were the ones that found this job for me and some other Japanese Americans, War Relocation Authority, a government agency.

SG: So how you, how would... you would apply through the camps?

GA: Yes. We had applied, before I left the camp, I had applied through the war, it's called WRA to find a job, and this is one of those that came up.

SG: And you said you were there briefly, and what happened after that?

GA: In September, I decided to come back to Idaho to get married.

SG: And you stayed in camp?

GA: No. I came back, got married, and started to work for a meat packing plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, and I was working there when I got hurt and landed in the hospital. And then I was living in Twin Falls, Idaho, at the time, and since I couldn't work, I went back into camp. I stayed there, I forgot how many months I stayed there. And since, when I got well, I got a job at the Tooele Ordinance Depot in Tooele, Utah, as an accountant at the ordinance depot, and I was there until 1946 when I decided to come back to Portland.

SG: It sounds like your injury at the meat packing plant was pretty severe.

GA: No. I got an infection, infection I think it was, so that's what landed me in the hospital. Yeah, it was an infection. That's why I landed in the hospital.

SG: So the government allowed you and your wife to live outside of the camp at that time?

GA: Oh, yes, yes, like we, since I couldn't work, I decided to go back into camp work, live off the government which I did for some months until I got this job in Tooele, Utah.

SG: And how did you find that job?

GA: I'm sure through the government, through the employment offices of the camp there. And since I was a veteran at that time, I was able to work in the office there whereas some of the Japanese Americans were working there were there to get their permit and I didn't need that. So anyway, I got to work there as an office worker.

SG: I was curious how you were able to live out and you said you lived in Twin Falls with your wife when you worked. Was it easy for Japanese families to live outside the camp, still considered in the west?

GA: Yes, yes. There was no known discrimination. I don't, I have, I didn't hear about any, so we, we both worked. I can't remember what she did now, but she was working, also working at Twin Falls. This was my first wife. This is my second wife here. My first wife died, 1974.

SG: Did you have to have a special permit to live outside camp at that time?

GA: I don't think so. I don't recall any.

SG: So there wasn't any special paperwork?

GA: No, no.

SG: And when did you decide to move back to Portland?

GA: 1946, 1946.

SG: Is that, how did you decide at that time to move back?

GA: A friend of mine who had been visiting Portland stopped by to see me on his way back home to the east, west, Midwest and he told me about this insurance company that was looking for a Japanese American agent, so I thought I'd go back and look into it and I did and decided to take it and came back to Portland. That was June of 1946.

SG: When did they start allowing Japanese to return to Portland?

GA: They started allowing Japanese to return to Portland about December of 1944. I didn't know that at the time, but I heard that some people had returned in December of 1944 even before the war had ended.

SG: And when did they disbanded Camp Minidoka?

GA: I don't remember the exact month, but it was 1945. I think even before the war ended, I think.

SG: Were your mom and sister still living there?

GA: No. They were living, my mother was living with us in Utah. My mother and father had come to live with us in Utah where I was working at Tooele Ordinance Depot. My sister had moved, had married and gone back East.

SG: So your entire family was out of the camps?

GA: Yes, yes.

SG: And do you know why the government was looking for a Japanese American agent to work in the insurance agent at that time?

GA: The government wasn't looking; a company was. Oh, I'm sure, this company had been very successful in Hawaii with Japanese American agents, so apparently that's why he wanted some Japanese American to come back to Portland to enter the Portland market where there was some Japanese Americans returning at that time. I'm sure that's why he was looking for a Japanese American.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

SG: And what was it like for you to return to Portland after being gone for so long?

GA: Well, it felt very good. I didn't see, feel any discrimination with the exception of one time when a couple of my friends went to a restaurant downtown Portland and we were denied the service. I think that was the only time that we were denied service because we were Japanese. That was 1946, yeah, '46.

SG: What happened to the Caucasian friends you left when you were evacuated originally? Were you able to connect with them when you came back to Portland?

GA: I'm sure I did. I'm sure I did connect with some people. I can't remember who I did now, but most of my contacts at that time were with Japanese Americans after I came back; whereas before I left, during the war, most of my contacts were Caucasians. I'm speaking about the grocery customers. But most of my social friends even before the war were Japanese Americans, yeah. So when I came back, those that came back, those Japanese Americans who came back to Portland did get together.

SG: I'll just go back to right before you left. Did your Caucasian customers when they knew you're being evacuated, how were you treated by them?

GA: Well, one of them offered to take us to the assembly center. We either had to assemble at a certain spot to be picked up by army trucks or be taken there by friends, and in our case, our Caucasian friend did take us to the assembly center.

SG: So in general, were you treated well by your former customers?

GA: Oh, yeah. There's no incidence that I can recall.

SG: So once you returned to Portland, what was it like for you to have to make a new life here again?

GA: Well, it was very difficult. We had very little money. Except for the money that I had saved working at the ordinance depot, we had to start life all over again. Since it was a different business, I didn't contact my Caucasian friends. I don't think I solicited their business. Most of my clients at that time were Japanese Americans.

SG: Was there a reason you didn't contact your Caucasian friends?

GA: I must have been a little reluctant to. I didn't try it, but, I mean didn't try to sell insurance to them. I don't know why I didn't, but I didn't. It's easier to sell to Japanese Americans, I think.

SG: Just out of curiosity, is, why do you feel, is it because of similar culture you think?

GA: I think so. I think so. Well, most of the Japanese Americans that I solicited were close to my age. It was very easy to sell, approach, easy to approach them; whereas, the customers in the grocery store are varied ages. Most of them were in upper bracket I would say. I was early twenties then, twenty, twenty-five, and most of my grocery store customers at that time were middle age and above, so maybe that's why I didn't try to approach them, I didn't. I don't think it was a case of discrimination. I didn't try to find out even.

SG: How had Portland changed for Japanese Americans compared to before and after the war?

GA: You're saying how did the community change?

SG: How did Portland change for Japanese Americans?

GA: Well, I think the community was more acceptable. They accepted the Japanese Americans better than during, than before the war. Before the war, there was still this animosity or feeling of the Japanese war against China. And of course, when the war was going on, there's lots of stories about the Japanese against the Americans. But after the war, there was some publicity about Japanese American soldiers participating to help the war effort, especially the 442 unit, and I think that helped with a lot of publicity given to them in the manner they fought against enemies. So I feel that there was not that much animosity towards Japanese Americans at that time.

SG: How did the Japanese community change after the war coming back? I know there was some, there used to be Japantown and there wasn't a Japantown, so I'm curious how going into internment camps and World War II affected the Japanese community itself?

GA: Affected the Japanese community?

SG: How did the Japanese community change after or did you see a slight change or any changes within?

GA: Well, they didn't have the centralization of a Japantown. In other words when Japantown existed, all kinds of businesses were in there, so the Japanese didn't have to leave the community to make their, to buy things. But after the war, since the Japanese town was not there, naturally they had to spread their business all over town, you might say; therefore, I don't think there was that central feeling of Japantown. In fact, in other words, what I'm trying to say is they felt that they could go anywhere to make their purchases rather than confining their activities in Japantown. Does that answer your question?

SG: Did the war affect how Japanese, the internment camp, how Japanese Americans interacted with the larger population in Portland?

GA: Oh, I'm sure it did. Just how it did, I can't answer, but I'm sure it made a difference. I think more Japanese Americans have Caucasian friends than ever before, and I know they get along much better. That's all I can say about that.

SG: How do you think you were a changed person after having gone through such a difficult experience that you were describing being evacuated and spending time in the different camps?

GA: What is the question?

SG: How do you think that experience that, the terrible experience you were describing changed you personally?

GA: Well, I'm an easygoing guy, and I don't know whether it has changed. I make friends fairly easily with the Caucasians, I always have and I continue to do so, so I really don't think it has changed me much. I've had good friends among Caucasians and I still do.

SG: Did you see the world any differently after having been through evacuation and the camps?

GA: Oh, I don't think so. I don't think I see the world any different. Having gone through many of the countries of the world, I feel that people are the same all over. They all are very friendly once you get to know them. They want to be friends with you.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

SG: Were your parents able to work after they returned to Portland?

GA: My mother used to work as a domestic after she came back. My father had been ill all this time, so he never did work after he came back, but my mother did work as a domestic for many years.

SG: What kind of illness did your father have?

GA: Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, so his joints were all snarled, foot bones were snarled, toes.

SG: And so were you the main supporter of your family?

GA: Yes.

SG: You were married at this time. Did you live with your parents as well?

GA: Not after we got married. Except when we were in Utah, my mother and father came to live with my first wife and me for a couple of, two, three years in Utah, two years. That's the only time we lived together. After we returned to Portland, we lived separately. I helped them financially, but we lived separately.

SG: Where did you move, where did you live when you moved back to Portland?

GA: When we first came back, my wife and I lived with her family for just a few months until we bought our home close by, and we lived there for many years.

SG: What part of Portland was that?

GA: Southeast near Powell Boulevard.

SG: Were there other Japanese Americans that settled in that area?

GA: There were some, but it was not, they were not congregated in that area, just a few families.

SG: You said you returned to Portland and worked in insurance and did your wife work at that time?

GA: No, she did not. Raising kids.

SG: How many kids did you have at this --

GA: Well, at that time two, two at that time.

SG: So you moved to, near Powell Boulevard and worked in insurance, and what happened after that?

GA: As far as business was concerned, I was in the insurance business, first of all, I was in the life insurance business. Then I was selling life insurance, I learned that Japanese Americans were having a hard time buying fire insurance and automobile insurance because of discrimination by the insurance companies, so I contacted a general insurance company who would accept Japanese Americans in their insurance business, and that's how I got into the general insurance business, too, in addition to the life insurance. And that situation was there until 1949 when the Japanese American older people, the Isseis, would come to my insurance office and have me help them get their travel documents when the U.S. government started to release permits for them to go back to Japan to visit Japan, and that's how I got into the travel business when the Japanese, older people would come to my insurance office and speak to me in Japanese to get their travel documents.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

SG: So this is when you started your own company?

GA: Travel business, yeah, 1949.

SG: And from there, what happened?

GA: So for many years, I had both the insurance and travel business. But later, I sold my insurance business and just stayed in the travel business until 1988 when I retired.

SG: What made you decide to keep the travel and sell the insurance?

GA: More enjoyable, more fun.

SG: What did you enjoy about travel business?

GA: Traveling, getting to travel.

SG: What, in terms of having your own business, were there any difficulties you encountered?

GA: No, no. I didn't... oh, except I was telling you a little while ago that insurance companies would not accept Japanese for their fire insurance and automobile insurance and public liability insurance. They were saying that when a case went to a court, there would be discrimination; therefore, they would not accept Japanese Americans or Japanese, and that's when I got into that business.

SG: And you had mentioned how you really enjoyed the travel business. What was, and what was the, was there a certain secret or philosophy that allowed your business to be so successful?

GA: No, no. I just, no, there's no secret, just hard work, just hard work. That's all I can explain it.

SG: And at this time, you're raising three kids?

GA: Well, they're all adults. I had three kids, my wife had three kids from her previous marriage, so we had six children in all and twelve grandchildren.

SG: When was -- I'm going to go back a little bit. When was the first time you were able to visit Japan?

GA: Well, the first time was 1925 when my mother took me and my sister to Japan to visit her relatives, my relatives, 1925. The next time was 1959 I think when I went to Japan for the first time after the war, 1959.

SG: What was that like?

GA: Oh, gosh, it was a big change, huge change. Of course, there was still damage to areas like Tokyo in 1949, but there was a huge change, excuse me, since 1925 when I first visited. In 1925 when I first visited, went to Japan, I noticed the aftermath of the, that was the 1923 earthquake I think it was, 1923, and there were a lot of damage at that time still left. And it's the same in 1959, there was still some damage to Tokyo that's still not fixed, not repaired.

SG: How did you feel visiting as an adult, your first time as an adult the land where your parents came from?

GA: How did I feel?

SG: Yeah. What was that like for you?

GA: Well, I really enjoyed seeing my relatives, and you do feel a little closeness being a kin. I really enjoyed meeting my relatives. I can't recall any of their participation in the war, but I don't think we even discussed that, and I had many relatives at that time. They're all gone now, but I had many relatives at that time. We got along pretty well.

SG: Do you feel the Japanese in general or your relatives treated you differently because you were a Nisei or Japanese American?

GA: I don't think so. I don't think so. No. I think as far as my relatives were concerned, they treated me very nice because I was a relative. That's the only explanation I can give.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

SG: I was going to go back to your children. Were there any, what values did you try to instill in your children while raising them?

GA: One of the things of course is honesty, respect for grandparents, be trustworthy. I think those are the main things that I've emphasized.

SG: Do you, your parents are Issei, you're Nisei, and you have children who are Sansei and grandchildren who are Yonsei, do you see, what differences do you see in those generations of the Japanese community?

GA: In the community?

SG: Uh-huh.

GA: One thing I think as the generations go along, I've noticed that more and more they get away from being Japanese, and you see so many intermarriages. I don't know what the percentage is, but I would say the percentage is huge these days where Japanese are marrying a Caucasian or another race. So one of these days, Japanese who are half breed or a quarter breed are not going to think they're any part of, any Japanese in them at all. That's the way I feel. It's nice if they would remember the fact that they were Japanese. I doubt it.

SG: Are there certain aspects of being Japanese you would like for other generations to remember?

GA: Well, yeah. I think many traits of Japanese that I would like to see them keep; respect for their elders, again, honesty and trustworthiness, respect for the aged, did I mention that, respect for the aged. I think that's all I can think of at the moment. Also, I'd like to see them keep up remembering Japanese food because Japanese food is good, not taste only but health wise, so I hope that they'll keep up the eating Japanese food.

SG: Are there any other Japanese customs that you feel would be important?

GA: Well, there's a lot of Japanese customs. I can't think of them at the moment, but there are a lot of good Japanese customs that I'd like to have them continue. I can't think of them at the moment, but there are many. I can't think of them at the moment.

SG: That's fine. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like mention in terms of your history as a, growing up here in Oregon, your life experience?

GA: I can't think of anything at the moment. I'm sure there are, but I can't think of any at the moment.

SG: I'll just ask you two more questions, and one of them is did you go on the Freedom Flight that was organized by Azumano Travel after --

GA: I did.

SG: Can you tell me more about what the Freedom Flight was about?

GA: Well, it was organized by Sho and Loen Dozono -- Loen is my daughter; Sho is my son-in-law, and they thought of the idea to take people to New York to show that we're supporting them and to, I guess to tell them that the Portland, Oregon, people are backing them up, that Oregon still, Oregon loves New York and wants to continue supporting them. And of course when you take a thousand people to one place, naturally, it brings up economic benefits for the recipients, and that's what happened in this case, especially when New York was suffering from lack of business. The New York people really appreciated the fact that Oregon supported them. There are other factors here, but I can't think clearly enough to remember them.

SG: What was that experience of going to New York, what was the personal experience for you visiting that site?

GA: Oh my gosh, visiting the site was really a, what do you call it, something I never realized, it was that huge to see these two buildings flattened. It was very, very sad. And to have all those people killed in this action was very, very, what's the word, well, very sad, and I just hope that never happens again. I just hope and pray that it never happens again. The scene was devastating.

SG: Was there any message you would like to, looking back on your experiences and the generations, the current generation, generations to come, is there any message you would like to leave them with from your own life experience?

GA: Pardon me?

SG: From your own life experience?

GA: Well, I hope that people respect each other. Sometimes you get the feeling that people don't respect each other these days, but I hope that the respect will continue and love one another. That's the main thing.

SG: I have one more question for you, Mr. Azumano. You said one of the joys in your life has been traveling. It's one of your things you enjoyed most about life, and what about traveling brings you so much joy? What about travel? What do you love about traveling so much?

GA: Well, if, first of all, you find that people are same all over, all over, and you can make many friends by being friendly to them. I think that's one of the things I like about travel. Of course, wherever you go, you see different things, but that's taken for granted. I found that you can make more friends by being friendly to them.

SG: So you enjoy meeting the people from the various countries?

GA: Oh, yes, yes. Even if you can't speak the language, somehow you can get, convey your message.

SG: Well, before we end the interview, is there anything else you would like to add?

GA: No, I haven't.

SG: Well, thanks so much, Mr. Azumano, for taking the time.

GA: I hope I've done something worthwhile here. Thank you.

SG: Very, very interesting.

GA: Thank you.

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