Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Yoichi "Cannon" Kitayama Interview
Narrator: Yoichi "Cannon" Kitayama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: April 27, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-kyoichi-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: In the days following December 7th, the FBI started picking up mostly men, Japanese men in the community. Were you aware of that happening in Portland?

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: And so describe that. What did you know about that?

YK: Well, things got around pretty fast when they picked them up, because being a tight community, hear the news right away. And so they were picked up, I think, in two ways. Well, most of them were community leaders. I think it was in either end of January or first part of February, they picked my father up. But he had nothing to do with it, being a hotel manager. But the problem was in the same block that we lived in around the corner was a guy with the same name, he was an editor. That's why they picked him, because he was an editor. And then they took my father because it's the same name, they didn't know the difference. And then they picked him up, and they kept him 'til May 1st, and then released him. And then May 5th we went into the assembly center. So we saw him about three or four days, he had to really work fast to get everything put together because my mother didn't know what to do. She knew we had to pack up and go, but she didn't know when.

TI: So May 1st was right before the assembly center? So let me make sure I understand this. So after December 7th, I think the term you used were two waves. And so the first wave, the FBI picked up men right away, and your father was picked up later, I think you said January he was picked up? And the reason he was picked up you think is because he had the same name as the editor of the Japanese language newspaper.

YK: Right.

TI: Now did they pick up the editor in that first wave? Did they pick him up early, do you remember?

YK: No, I don't think he was there anymore. It was a newspaper that didn't work out, and I think it was already closed. And the FBI, not knowing that much about what happened, they picked the same name, and I guess they surmised that it's the same guy.

TI: And so they... it took them four months, it sounds like, to figure this out, and they released him then May 1st. So they didn't keep him. Now when they picked up your father, what was the reaction of your mother?

YK: I don't know; I wasn't there when they picked him up. But when I came home from school, she told me. And then we, I guess we had to decide what to do. But mostly she kept things going, put it together okay.

TI: And how was, kind of, her... I guess her state of mind when you came home from school and she told you that your father was picked up by the FBI, was she calm?

YK: Yeah, she was pretty calm. Yeah, she was pretty tough.

TI: At this point, did she suspect that it was a mistake, like you said, it was because of the same name? Did she think that it was a mistake, or did she kind of know why they picked up your father?

YK: They didn't know why.

TI: So your mother's pretty calm and you said she's strong. How did you guys cope without your father? It must have been hard.

YK: Well, she did the hotel work, and I went to school like things were normal. And, yeah, it was pretty tough, but she was, she was pretty tough. I don't remember anything unusual happening except when she got down to where, about the end of April, I guess. We were ready to sell the business, and she had to take care of the... she had some help doing that, too, because she had to transfer license and stuff like that. She didn't know any of that. But fortunately, he came home just before we left, he kind of straightened things out.

TI: But before your father came, who was helping her figure these things out, like license transfer...

YK: Oh, there was a friend of ours that helped out, couple friends, tell us how to do things. That's about it. She just got advice from people and just followed them, I guess.

TI: I'm curious, was there any difference in the clientele? Did any of the people who stayed at the hotel, did some of them decide not to stay here anymore because of what happened?

YK: Not that I know of. I don't remember anything like that.

TI: So pretty much the same, the African American porters would still come?

YK: I think so.

TI: And none of the longer residents left or anything like that?

YK: [Shakes head].

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.