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-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's, earlier you talked about your father. And again, so what was your father's name again?

YK: Yosakichi.

TI: Yosakichi. And where was he born?

YK: Toyama, Japan.

TI: Okay. And what kind of work did your father's family do in Japan?

YK: They were farmers, rice farmers.

TI: And do you know why he decided to come to the United States?

YK: Better life, I guess.

TI: And do you know about what time, like what year your father came from Japan to the United States?

YK: 1903.

TI: Good. You have a great memory. Now, did your father have any brothers or sisters?

YK: Yeah. One, two, three... four brothers and I think it was one sister.

TI: And in terms of birth order, where was your father?

YK: He's the third one.

TI: That's right, you mentioned that.

YK: That's why it's got "san" in the middle.

TI: And do you know, was he the only one who came to America or did any of his other brothers...

YK: No, just him.

TI: So why do you think he was the only one? Why didn't, like, I probably, the eldest would always usually stay, but like the second or the fourth didn't come?

YK: Well, I suppose he was more adventurous than the others because he was in the Russo-Japanese War, and then he came here after that. So he was pretty young.

TI: And when you say adventuresome, if you were to describe his personality, how would you describe him? What was he like?

YK: He was pretty quiet. Didn't say too much, but he was a good craftsman.

TI: A good craftsmen? Like what kind of crafts did he do?

YK: Oh, he'd do things at home, build his own furniture. And Mother went to a, what you call it, a doll class to make the Japanese dolls, he made the glass frame and everything. So he was pretty good.

TI: So do you have anything, like, today that he made?

YK: Yeah, we've got the shogatsu, two dolls, plus there's a butsudan he made during the war. That's a couple things. I still have a couple of furniture, nothing special about it, but it's practical.

TI: Now did he, in terms of the way he made things, was it more of the Japanese style or more of American style in terms of things like...

YK: Both, I think. I think he learned some of that craft while he was working over here. Seemed like he had some of the Western influence.

TI: Interesting. So he's a little more adventuresome, he comes from Toyama to the United States, so where does he go in the United States? Where does he settle?

YK: Well, first time I noticed him, he was up in Montana. I guess he was a cowhand, and I don't know how many years, but he worked up there, he worked in Utah in the mines, he worked on the railroad for a while, he kind of bummed around different places.

TI: Did you ever find out how he first ended up in Montana? I mean, that's a long ways from the West Coast.

YK: Right, I have no idea.

TI: And when you said he was like a cowhand, what kind of work would a cowhand do?

YK: Oh, generally clean up. I supposed he cleaned the animals and stuff like that. Years ago, somewhere I had a picture of him sitting in a wagon with his boss. And he looks like a big shot with a cigar in his mouth. I thought that was kind of interesting, but I don't know when it happened because it's not dated. But there isn't much of anything that he left. Next thing you know, it's in the early 1930s, I guess, in Portland. That's the first time I knew what he was doing.

TI: Okay, because yeah, he came over, you said 1903. But I'm curious, when, like a cowhand, did he ever talk about, did he, like, ride horses?

YK: Well, I imagine he did.

TI: Did you ever know if he worked, if there were other Japanese working in Montana with him?

YK: I didn't notice that. It's always a picture of himself, so I don't know whether... there must have been more Japanese around there someplace.

TI: Now during this time, did he learn how to speak English?

YK: I guess he did. He never spoke English very much anyhow.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.