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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Saturday, April 27, 2013. We're in Portland in the Holladay retirement center? I'm not sure... Holladay Park. And we're in a room kind of called the Solarium doing the interview. In the room observing we have Lynn Fuchigami Longfellow, the executive director of O.N.E., and then Chad Williams, who will be helping out with their oral history project. On camera we have Dana Hoshide, and then I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. This interview is being done as part of a project with O.N.E., and Densho is helping out with this. So that gives you some background, Cannon. And so Cannon, I'm going to start with, I guess, the beginning. Can you tell me when you were born?

YK: It's 11/24/28.

TI: Okay, so November 24, 1928.

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: So that makes you... I'm trying to do my math, eighty-four?

YK: Eighty-four.

TI: Eighty-four years old. And where were you born?

YK: Right here.

TI: So right here in Portland. So where in Portland were you born?

YK: Well, not sure, but I guess the midwife was near here. So I think about Sixth and Burnside, Heath and Burnside.

TI: And so you said midwife, and so you were born in, was it your house, your home?

YK: I don't know. Never asked.

TI: And do you know, was it pretty common for midwives to be used during this time? Do you know anything about the midwife? Was she Japanese?

YK: No, I don't know anything about her. I think the name's on the birth certificate.

TI: And what was the name given to you at birth?

YK: Yoichi.

TI: And do you know how you got that name? Did it mean anything or was there a significance to it?

YK: I guess it's just follow on down the line because my father was Yosakichi. He was the third, and Yoichi is the first. So that's how I got the name I guess.

TI: Okay. And during the interview, I'm using the name Cannon as we talk because that's what people call you in Portland. Can you tell me how you got that name, Cannon?

YK: That's a good question. I can't tell you anymore, I don't know.

TI: Well, I heard a story, it had to do with, they said with your baseball playing. That when you played baseball, what position did you play?

YK: I was a pitcher.

TI: Okay, so do you think it was because of your arm, that you had a really good arm?

YK: I had that name before I played ball. I guess somewhere along, playing basketball... I can't remember how the name started.

TI: But it was probably through some of your friends, and they gave you that name.

YK: Everybody had a nickname.

TI: Yeah, it's funny, I've interviewed lots of Niseis, and everyone, you're right, almost all the guys, even the women, had nicknames. It was fun.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, let's talk about your mother. So what was her name?

YK: Kuni Araki.

TI: Kuni Araki, and where was she from?

YK: Toyama.

TI: And do you know what kind of work her family did in Japan?

YK: Same thing, rice farmer.

TI: And then how did your father and mother meet?

YK: I suppose the prearranged, 'cause he went back in '23, got married and brought her over here. '23 was the year when they stopped the immigration law. So he beat the law by a little bit, I guess. I don't know when he got married.

TI: Yeah, because I think it was 1924 that they stopped it completely, so they must have, yeah, they all kind of knew that something was going to happen. Now, how old was your mother, how was your mother's age compared to your father's age? Were they about the same age or was there an age difference?

YK: No, he was a lot older. He'd be eighteen years older.

TI: And so how old was your mother when she came over?

YK: When she came over? Twenty-two.

TI: Okay, so your father was about forty and she was about twenty-two.

YK: Yeah.

TI: Did you ever ask your mother why she married your father? Was it, you mentioned prearranged probably between families?

YK: I just assumed that.

TI: Did she ever talk about what she was expecting when she came to come to America?

YK: No.

TI: And so 1923, when they got married and they came to America, where did they go? Was that Montana at that time, or Utah?

YK: Yeah, at the beginning it was Montana.

TI: And do you know what she did when your dad was in...

YK: Housework, I think.

TI: Like housework just for the family, or did she help like housework, like a hired housework person?

YK: No, I think for the family.

TI: So earlier I asked about your father, what he was like, and you mentioned he was kind of quiet. How about your mother? What was she like?

YK: She talked more than my father did, but well, she was fairly opinionated, not very strong, but had ideas. She... well, I guess didn't have too much to say. That's about all I can tell you.

TI: Well, like if you were ever to do something kind of bad or mischievous, who would be the one to discipline you? Would it be your mother or your father?

YK: That would be my father.

TI: And what would happen usually if he had to discipline you?

YK: I don't remember. I don't remember him ever hitting me, but well, he sat down and talked to me a couple times, that's about it. My mother didn't have much to say. She'd lecture a lot, but nothing real severe.

TI: And when they would talk with you, was it in Japanese that they would talk with you?

YK: Yeah, I think so.

TI: When I think about the age difference, eighteen years' difference, how would you describe their relationship?

YK: I guess it was pretty compatible.

TI: But was the sense because your dad was older he was more in control? Or was it kind of even? How would you describe...

YK: I would say he was in a little bit more control, not that much more. Well, when I was a little kid, she went to learn English, went to a class up at Shattuck school, I remember that. We used to walk with her. She used to walk a couple miles just to go learn English. So she tried to learn, I guess it wasn't too bad. I don't know whether she got a certificate or not, but she got to understand English pretty good.

TI: And so do you remember going to the school with her when she took lessons?

YK: Yeah, I used to go to school with her, I guess to keep her company.

TI: And about how old were you when this happened?

YK: I must have been kindergarten, first, second grade, somewhere in there.

TI: And so this is in Portland when this happened.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Going back, you were born in 1928. Did your parents have any other children? So you were the only child.

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: So do you know why they decided to come to Portland and leave like Montana?

YK: I don't know.

TI: So when they were in Portland, what kind of work did they do?

YK: They had a hotel; they managed a hotel.

TI: And so tell me about the hotel. What was the name of the hotel and where was it?

YK: The hotel was the Royal Palm. It's still there, it's kitty-corner from the Chinese Garden. And it was a pretty nice hotel back in those days. We used to, well... yeah, it was kind of on the fringe of Japantown.

TI: And what was the address of the Royal Palm?

YK: 310 Northwest Flanders.

TI: So I'm guessing the neighborhood's changed a lot over the years. But when you were a kid like in kindergarten, describe the neighborhood around the Royal Palm. What was that like?

YK: Well, we were in the middle of Japantown, so we're kind of on the outskirts. I guess my friends, we used to all get together at a garage with a bunch of kids about our age. But demographics, I guess, we're all about the same age, within two to three years of each other. So we have pictures of the kids lined up by the garage. There were more, I guess were still quite a few Japanese around there, not as concentrated as it was in the center, around Third and Davis. That's more where those people all spoke Japanese. I can't tell you much more than that, I don't think. But being in a hotel, basically you have to speak English, so I got used to the people that stayed, tenants, who I used to speak English to them, talked back and forth.

TI: I want to talk more about the clientele, or the customers at the hotel. But before then, I want to go back to your friends. And you mentioned you would get together and go to a garage?

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: So tell me more about that. What would you do at the garage?

YK: Not much. Well, if it was empty, or a few cars, we'd go in there and play with tricycles and wagons and stuff, run around inside, 'cause it's pretty safe. And, well, I guess the kids all came from about three, four blocks area. I guess we had a good time, I don't remember.

TI: Now you said demographically they were all about the same age, and within one to two years. What about the races of your friends? You mentioned you were in a place where it wasn't necessarily all Japanese, but were your friends...

YK: The kids were all Japanese.

TI: Now did you play with other races during this time?

YK: Yeah, the kid across the street, he was Chinese. And the two girls downstairs, on the storefront, they were Chinese. So communicated a little bit, but never to play around. We just say hello and that's about it.

TI: So I'm curious, how did the Japanese and Chinese get along in your neighborhood?

YK: Oh, my place had a Chinese fellow that was a delivery boy at the beginning for New Republican. He worked up, he ended up with a partner in New Republic after the war. But he stayed at our place, and that's the only Chinese I remember. Let's see... yeah, there was a Greek fellow, and that was kind of interesting because he used to work somewhere... I think he was a longshoreman or something. He used to work, he'd come home once in a while, I'd wait for him, 'cause he'd have -- what is it? -- sourdough, which we never had. And he'd slice sourdough and put butter and sugar on there, so I used to like that. He used to call it "sugar butter bread." I used to wait for him to come home from work, not all the time, but once in a while. He was a regular tenant for a long time.

TI: Going back to that story, I love that story about the bread. Where in the hotel would you wait for him?

YK: Oh, I'd wait for him probably in the lobby. Because I'd catch him when he'd just come walking in, 'cause he'd have the bread with him. If he didn't have it, then I wouldn't ask him. That was the first time I ever had sourdough.

TI: Now when you were waiting for him, were there others waiting with you, or were you all by yourself?

YK: No, I was by myself.

TI: And describe when he would see you, when he had his bread and he saw you, what was his reaction usually?

YK: Oh, he'd invite me over to his room. We didn't have any housekeeping, so he just had a knife, just a sink, that's about it. So that was kind of interesting. We had lots of trainmen, most of 'em were, almost all of 'em were Afro American.

TI: So you had Greeks, African Americans, Chinese. But going back to the Greek man and the bread, did your parents know that you would get bread from the...

YK: Uh-huh, I'd tell 'em.

TI: And what was their reaction when you told them you would get sourdough bread?

YK: I don't remember anything about that.

TI: So they thought it was okay for you to do that?

YK: Yeah. Because he was a regular tenant, so it must have been okay.

TI: Now can you recall anything you did to thank him for the bread? Any, like, special thing that you did for him?

YK: No. I didn't see him all that often, because being, I think it was a longshoreman, because when he came home from work, was not always the same time.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay. So let's go back to the people who stayed at the hotel. So you mentioned this Greek man who you think might have been a longshoreman, you had a Chinese, you had the, you said, African Americans who worked with the railroad. And so what kind of work did they do with the railroad?

YK: Porters, cooks... what else is there? I don't think there was any brakemen. Let's see. Oh, waiters, people that generally worked on the train. And my father would kind of keep track of them because a lot of times a train would come in late or at night, and so he'd save a place for 'em, so they'd have a place to stay. And most of 'em stayed just overnight, 'cause they had to take the next train going south. They were all... I think all of them were Southern Pacific people. Yeah, I think that's what it was.

TI: So in many cities, African Americans had sometimes a hard time finding housing. Were there other places in the neighborhood where they could stay, or was your hotel about the only place they would stay?

YK: I think there were one or two others, but they stayed at our place pretty steady because he'd keep the timetable for them, and then he'd know when they'd be coming in. I think it was about every four or five days that it would show up, and they appreciated that.

TI: So they knew that whenever, that your dad would save a room for them, and it was late at night so it was probably easy for them to do that.

YK: Uh-huh. It wouldn't be all that late, it would probably be about eight-thirty, nine. Yeah, I think that's about what it was.

TI: Now tell me about the reception, or when these African Americans came to the hotel, especially the ones who would come on kind of a regular basis or more than once. I mean, how would your father and these African Americans sort of relate or interact?

YK: Oh, I think they got along pretty good. It seemed like they got pretty friendly, because he'd take care of them. I guess that's... I don't remember, but it seems to me that it's about one-third of the tenants were Afro American. I think that's what it was.

TI: So when you say one-third of the tenants, I'm trying to understand, and so they would come like every four days because they were on the train. So was it like different trains and different porters who would be there, or they would only come in groups and they would be there for a while, and then it'd be gone? How would that work?

YK: Generally when they came in it would be, oh, maybe four or five of 'em off one train. And then next day would be another group from another train. Yeah, they were pretty good people because they had to cater to the public. Yeah, I guess it must have been about a third of the tenants.

TI: So any stories about while they were staying at the hotel, did they, like, any interaction you had with them, or any memory of that?

YK: No, 'cause generally they'd come in at night and leave in the morning, so I didn't have too much to say to 'em. I guess small talk, maybe, that's about it.

TI: How about things like did they ever play cards together or socialize like maybe some drinking or anything at the hotel?

YK: Not that I can remember. I think they were probably too tired when they come in. The next day, they couldn't drink because they had to go to work. So they were a pretty clean bunch of people.

TI: When you said your father got along with them, when they would come, would your father, like, would there be joking back and forth or anything like that?

YK: Might have been. I guess the biggest part of it was trust. They trusted his views and anticipation of what they were gonna do.

TI: Now do you recall what... what did the people staying at the hotel, what did they call your parents, your mother and father, when they would come? Did they call them by name, or what would they say?

YK: No, I guess they call 'em Ma and Pa, that's about all I can remember.

TI: Because I remember my grandparents managed a hotel in Seattle, and as a kid I remember they would all call 'em Mama and Papa.

YK: Yeah, I guess that's probably right.

TI: Did your parents ever... not from the African Americans, but from people in the community, did they ever get any criticism for allowing African Americans to stay at the hotel?

YK: Not that I can, I know of. I guess everybody minded their own business, because they didn't seem to say anything about that. My friends didn't say anything either, so I guess they just left that up to the individuals. Like I say, they were a pretty nice group of people, because of the fact that they weren't drinking and gambling, things like that. They didn't have time for that, so that was pretty good.

TI: Now did your parents... earlier we talked about your getting bread from the Greek man. In the same way, did you have very much interaction with any of the African Americans?

YK: No, just say hello and that's about it. Mainly because they came in, generally they came in at night and they left in the morning, so I didn't have much time for interaction.

TI: So as you were growing up, you had exposure to African Americans, to Greek, Chinese, Japanese. Did your parents ever talk about the different races and either how they interact or anything like that?

YK: No, not that I can remember. He seemed to be pretty accommodating. For one, being a hotel, you have to be. So I guess he was pretty easygoing.

TI: So I remember a conversation with my aunt who worked at the hotel, my grandparents'. And in the same way it was sort of a mixed audience, or mixed clientele. And one of the things that came up in the conversation was the Japanese are really proud people, and there were times where I think my grandparents felt that the Japanese may be better than other races. Did that ever come up, did you ever hear that from your parents?

YK: No.

TI: Or did you ever hear that from other Japanese?

YK: Yeah, the others talked, especially those in Japantown, and concentrated where they spoke nothing but Japanese. Some of them felt superior.

TI: So in those cases, do you think the ones that felt that way, maybe managed a hotel, do you think they would have allowed African Americans to stay at their place?

YK: I don't know. Some of 'em might. I think most of 'em probably not.

TI: Yeah, it's really interesting. It's always interesting, I always wonder how the Isseis, the first generation, how they come from Japan, which is very homogenous, all Japanese, and then in the case of your parents, all of a sudden it's African Americans, whites, Chinese, Japanese, and just how they figured that all out. It must have been such a big difference for them, more so than you, because you probably grew up with that. But for them it was a dramatic shift. Especially like your mother, coming from a Japanese village all of a sudden into an American city.

YK: Well, I guess if you think about it, hotel business was pretty accommodating, you know. So you can't get real strict about races and things like that or else you'd lose business.

TI: Running a hotel is a lot of work, and I'm wondering, so growing up, did you have chores at the hotel that you had to do?

YK: Yeah, some minor things like changing the newspaper in the garbage cans and stuff like that. Once in a while I guess I used to count sheets and pillow cases and stuff, 'cause every day they would come and pick them up, had laundry people, and you'd have to have a count. I guess I got to a point where I was old enough to be able to count, so they let me do that. But other than that, I didn't have much to do.

TI: Now every once in a while, in hotels, sometimes you'd have to clean out a room because maybe a tenant didn't come back or something happened. Did that happen at the Royal Palm, that you'd have to clean out a unit or something like that?

YK: Yeah, my parents did that. But the rooms weren't very big anyhow, so it wasn't that difficult. Yeah, I guess the ones that really had to clean out was the tenants who stayed there a long time. And like this Greek guy, he stayed for quite a while. Most of 'em were transients, like the railroad people. So that was pretty easy. All you have to do is change sheets, bedding.

TI: Now how about your parents? How did they work as a team? So did your mother have certain roles or your father have certain roles?

YK: They would each have... I think they went by, had two floors. My father took care of one floor and my mother took care of the other floor. So they were both independently of each other. So that's how I think they worked out.

TI: And then how about things like collecting the money and things like that? Did both of them do that?

YK: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So let's talk about your school. So when you were in kindergarten, what school did you go to?

YK: Oh, I don't remember the name of the kindergarten. I got a picture of it, but it was on the west end of the Ross Island Bridge. The building's still there. [Sneezes] Excuse me. Building's still there, but the kindergarten, I think, I don't remember. I think they disbanded it shortly after we went there. And there again, we're about the same age group, about three years, and I think there were fourteen of us, we have a group picture.

TI: And how many of your classmates were Japanese?

YK: All of 'em.

TI: Was it a Japanese kindergarten?

YK: [Nods].

TI: Okay, so it was... so tell me about that. So of your kindergarten classmates, how many of them were able to speak English at this point?

YK: All of 'em did, I think. Seems to me we all spoke English while we were at kindergarten. I think that's what it was.

TI: Yeah, because it was interesting, Seattle, a lot of times at kindergarten, kids would come in speaking Japanese because that's what their parents would speak, and kindergarten was kind of the first time where they really had to learn English and use it.

YK: Once in a while it would be mixed, but mostly it's English. Because the teacher spoke English. She was a, I guess she was a Nisei, but she spoke English.

TI: So an older Nisei. And who ran the kindergarten, this Japanese kindergarten?

YK: I don't know; couldn't tell you.

TI: And do you remember what you learned at this kindergarten? I mean, was it like a typical American education or was it more there were some Japanese things?

YK: No, we just, most of it was play time, it seemed like. I don't think there was too much in the way of learning. Let's see... yeah, I remember they'd have a big toy box, I remember there would be playtime, we'd all run over to the toy box, everybody pick up their favorite toy. It's kind of interesting, 'cause everybody grabbed one, and once in a while you'd get a little conflict of one guy would try to take it away from the other. As a whole, I guess it was pretty dignified. I don't remember too much about kindergarten.

TI: Now in your class, was it both boys and girls?

YK: Yeah. I think there were more girls than boys. I think... it seems to me there's only about two of us, three of us still alive from that group. That age group were to be two above and two below. I guess it's about a year and a half, about three or four year span of kids. I don't know where some of the others went, but the ones we know of, there were only two others left.

TI: That's interesting. So after this school, where did you go?

YK: Couch.

TI: Coach?

YK: Couch, C-O-U-C-H. It's a grade school.

TI: And how large was your class when you went there? Before you said you had about fourteen before, was it bigger?

YK: Yeah. Must have been probably in the twenties.

TI: And how about the racial makeup of your class? Was it mostly Japanese?

YK: No, they were all Caucasians. And there were two or three Japanese, same amount of Chinese, that's about it. There were no blacks, that's what I can remember.

TI: And so where did all your classmates from the Japanese school, did they go to the same school, or did they all go to different schools?

YK: They went to... you mean the ones that were going to Japanese school?

TI: Yeah. Well, earlier, the kindergarten where you said you had fourteen classmates, what schools did they go to?

YK: Generally they went to either Couch, Shattuck, or Atkinson. Atkinson closed down after 1935 or so. And then those that went to Atkinson, they split to either Shattuck or to Couch. But most of them... very few Japanese were outside the Japantown area. The south end and north end were the biggest concentration. On the south end they all went to Shattuck, on the north end they all came to Couch. In the south end, there was a lot of Jews up there, they mixed in with the Japanese, I guess, get along okay. Ethnically they're pretty strong, too, you know. So I don't know what happened. But as far as I know, they must have got along. On our end, there was no special group, so it was a pretty mixed group of people. I don't think there's any concentration of any ethnic group in our end. I was... well, people, there were some Japanese that lived outside the Japantown, and they were in the Caucasian group, they got along okay. It seemed like we didn't have any real problems.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Earlier I mentioned the Japanese school, and I wanted to ask, did you ever have to go to Japanese language school?

YK: [Nods]. Japanese language? Yeah.

TI: Tell me about that.

YK: It followed the... I guess the Japanese Ministry of Education guidelines, because the books we learned from were of the same caliber they would be if it's in Japanese grade six, we would get the same thing. We would have to learn the same way. But the difference in ours, it was just speaking and writing. We didn't have any math or anything like that, it was just verbal.

TI: But it would seem it would be hard, though. I mean, for you to be a sixth grade, using the same textbooks as a sixth grader in Japan, where they're immersed in Japanese, and here you're immersed in English going to a Japanese school, seems like it would be pretty hard.

YK: Yes. Well, it's kind of hard, but when you think about it, the parents would help you. Plus, the text and then the spoken language, you don't have any math or anything like that, so that took a lot of the load off of you. You learn how to speak and that's about it.

TI: So how long, or how many hours a day did you have to --

YK: Two.

TI: Two hours. But this is after your regular school.

YK: [Nods].

TI: So walk me through a typical school day, I mean, from the morning 'til you're done at the end of the day. What would your day be like, like on a Monday or Tuesday?

YK: Well, I guess school started about eight-thirty, I think. We'd leave home about eight, yeah, about eight. It was about a mile to the school.

TI: So before you go walking to school, what would you have for breakfast? How would you wake up, and what would you have for breakfast? Was it like a Japanese breakfast, do you think, or is it like eggs and bacon?

YK: No, I don't think it's eggs and bacon, but it's something simple. I suppose it was like toast and eggs or something like that. Something very simple to make. And had sandwich for lunch. My mother would make tuna fish, peanut butter, stuff like that.

TI: And would you have a little lunchbox?

YK: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

YK: Lunchbox, and carry it up to the school.

TI: And you said about a mile you had to walk?

YK: Yeah. About a mile. Gee, back in those days, nothing, you're used to it. So you walk everywhere.

TI: Now when you were, like, in elementary school, walking a mile, did you go by yourself or did you walk with friends?

YK: When I was in the first, second and third grade, I used to, somebody used to walk with me, somebody older. They were still in the neighborhood, so I'd just go along with them. After the fourth grade, I think all the others, they either graduated or they were no longer there. So we were kind of on our own. I don't remember, but I don't think there was anybody in my neighborhood that were close enough to go walk together. That's pretty safe, anyhow, you're walking on your own. So that's what we used to do. Get there by eight-thirty and go to the school. Day finished at three-thirty, come back, have a snack, and go to Japanese school at four, between four and six and every day except Saturday, we had from nine to twelve. I think just by reading and writing, we kind of kept up with the regular Japanese stuff. And a lot of times... well, of course, some of those that live farther from Japanese school, they would stop and get some snacks somewhere. I was only two blocks from the school, so I used go to home and get something to eat, then go back to school. And that was easy.

TI: How many students were in your Japanese class? How many were taking that class?

YK: Seemed like there were about three (boys).

TI: Wow, so a really small class.

YK: Chinese about the same, too.

TI: So the Chinese had a Chinese school, you mean?

YK: Yeah, Chinese had Chinese school, but the regular school, they had about three kids there, too. I don't remember besides Japanese and Chinese. I don't think there were any Filipinos.

TI: Oh, but what I meant was, so when you go to your Japanese language school, how many other Japanese were going to this school? Just a few or was it more?

YK: Just about all of 'em.

TI: And so how many would that be?

YK: Well, if it was three in our class, I think... oh, no, there would be two. One of 'em lived close to the school, and it's be too much of a hassle going all the way down to school and back home again. And there were two of us in the class.

TI: Wow, so it's like having a special, your own tutor, your Japanese tutor? There was only two of you. It's such a small class.

YK: Oh, you mean Japanese class?

TI: Yeah, Japanese class.

YK: Oh, Japanese class we had three... we had eight in our class. We were one of the smaller classes.

TI: And so some of them were from Shattuck, after Shattuck they would go home, get their snack, and then join you?

YK: Uh-huh. Well, no, not Shattuck, because Shattuck had their own school on the south end. They had a Japanese school there, too. So people that were living in the south end, they went to Japanese school at the south. People on the north end went to school on our end. It wasn't all that large, because I think we had one of the smallest classes. But one of the bigger classes had about, oh, about fifteen, eighteen kids. It was kind of interesting that way.

TI: So why was that interesting?

YK: Well, everybody had to go to school, they were pretty punctual, because Japanese were taught to be punctual, you know, so they were. And in between, there was a ten minute break in between classes. We'd be in the same class, same room, but you get a ten minute break from learning. That's when you, you know, play time. I remember playing handball, ping pong, that's about it. Japanese school was just the one floor, and they had... I guess it must have been first grade up through high school. But the classes weren't very big.

TI: Now, how would you compare going to regular school and Japanese school? Was there one that you enjoyed more than the other?

YK: No, that's something that you figured you had to do without any choice, so you do it. Didn't think about things like that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay. So I'm going to now jump. When you were about nine years old, you went to Japan. So let's talk about that. Why did you go to Japan?

YK: Summer vacation, my mother wanted to go back for a visit. She's never been there since she came over here. So I went with her, 1938. Yeah, that's right. First time I'd been on a ship, got seasick, I remember that. Not very long, though. I think I got seasick for two days, and seemed like the boat took about ten days. We landed in Yokohama, and we took a train to Toyama. That's when we had a, I guess, family reunion, 'cause we have a picture with all her relatives lined up. So I remember the one bad thing about Japan was they had mosquitoes, and I had mosquito bites all the time. Some of 'em got infected, had a big pus-like thing grew on me. That's one thing I didn't like about Japan. Other than that, we did a lot of traveling. It was... I can't remember too much about it, but I remember going fishing, and what else? Not much else. Mostly was visiting people and places.

TI: At about your age, there were quite a few Niseis who, when they were kids, would go to Japan, and some of them would stay in Japan because either the family moved back or they were to be educated. When you visited Japan, could you see yourself living in Japan? Could that be something that you would feel comfortable doing?

YK: Yeah, I guess I could have. Fortunately, I had enough Japanese language training over here, and I could get along with the others. In that sense, I guess Japanese school was helpful.

TI: Yeah, you must have had a really good Japanese school, because for you to feel that way, I think many Niseis felt that their Japanese wasn't good enough, and so it was really hard for them when they would go to Japan.

YK: Well, I guess a lot of it's because you're among relatives. There's a certain amount of give and take there, so it makes it easier to talk and understand. Especially out in the country where you have different dialects. And the dialects weren't too bad because at home our parents would speak the same dialect, so it wasn't that bad. When I got home, the spoken language was a lot different than the language that you had a dialect with. But it was, I guess I had fun, I enjoyed it. It was about three months, summer vacation. I don't remember coming home, the ship coming home.

TI: Were there any Japanese relatives that you felt really close to after those three months?

YK: No, because we kind of moved from one relative to another. And they all seemed like, pretty accommodating, but I guess that's okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So, Cannon, we're going to start up again. And we had just talked about your trip to Japan. But before we move on to the war, off camera we talked about some other stories growing up at the hotel before the war. And what's pretty common in many of the Japantowns on the West Coast, it was also, in some cases, the red light district where there's prostitution. So I wanted to ask you, did your, were there ever any, like prostitutes who stayed at your hotel?

YK: Yeah, there were two. You might say they were permanent residents. They didn't do any business there, but they stayed there. And the next block is where the storefront was, and that's where they did their business.

TI: So when you stay "storefront," explain that. So it was just like a regular store that people would just go to...

YK: Yeah, it's like anything on the first, ground floor of a building, these small storefronts, maybe about twenty, twenty-five feet wide, and the windows like this, then it'd go, set in, and the door in the middle. Pretty typical little storefront.

TI: Now if you went inside there, would there be like little rooms or something, or how would they set it up?

YK: Never went inside. [Laughs] But it seemed to me like they had curtains or something just beyond the door so you couldn't see inside. But they would ply their trade by the window, just like they do in Amsterdam, they show their wares right out the window.

TI: Oh, so they would sort of, yeah, I guess, stand by the window, essentially.

YK: Yeah, they would solicit. And back in those days, everybody was pretty free, so they would give come-ons and stuff like that.

TI: Now would they ever get hassled by the police? Would the police ever kind of...

YK: Not really. I don't remember having any police problems. We didn't have any problems either, because all they did at our place was they rented a room and they stayed there. It was their permanent address, I guess. So I remember I went in there a couple times, man, it was smelly, full of perfume. It was strong.

TI: Now how did your parents treat these two women? Were they treated any differently than any other tenants?

YK: No, I guess they just treated 'em just like anybody else. No, no special privilege or anything. Had to clean their room every day, just like all the others. Being that they're sort of permanent tenants, they had a lot of junk in there, pictures on the mirror and all that stuff. Transients don't have things like that, but they had a lot of stuff like that around.

TI: Now before the war, you're a boy, did you understand what they were doing, kind of what their work was?

YK: Sort of. Not really, but I had an idea, that's about it. But they... well, they were nice to me. I got nothing against them. We just didn't have any business in the hotel, so it was, they got along okay, I guess.

TI: And what race were these two women?

YK: One was, I know was Afro American, but the other one, she was light-colored, and red hair, and I think she might have been a mix of... what do you call those people down in Louisiana?

TI: Cajun?

YK: Yeah, it's sort of like Cajun. Is it mulattoes? It could have been like that. She was light-colored, but she had her hair dyed red to make her stand out, I guess.

TI: Now in terms of their schedule, earlier you talked about how the porters would come in about eight, eight-thirty at night. What was their schedule like?

YK: The women?

TI: Yeah, the women.

YK: Seemed like most of the time they were on a regular day schedule. They'd be out there all day, and they'd come home at night. I don't know, I never paid too much attention.

TI: Okay, that's interesting. Any other interesting tenants like these two women, or anything else that, sort of, you remember?

YK: No, that's about it.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So I'm going to jump now to December 7, 1941, so it's a Sunday. And can you tell me where you were when you first heard that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor?

YK: I was at Peninsula Park in North Portland, and that was on a Sunday, and all the kids, we used to go to basketball games, either participating or to watch. I was too young to play in the games, but I went to watch, and that's when I heard it. It must have been in the afternoon, I think, two-hour time difference. And by the time I think the news got around and came around after noon. After we found that out, we kind of worried about, how are going to go home? 'Cause we used to catch the streetcar all the time. But we figure if we're in a group, pretty safe. So we got back on the streetcar. At that time, there was nothing derogatory about us being Japanese and stuff like that. Of course, being Sunday, there weren't that many people riding the streetcar either. The other thing is they couldn't tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese. So they kept pretty much to themselves.

TI: And so when you got home, what did your parents say? Did they say anything to you about what happened?

YK: No, I think they did... I don't remember too much about it. Yeah, I think they said, "We're at war," that's about it. I wasn't too concerned with them, kind of too young to understand. We went, that was a Sunday, so next day we went to school, I don't think there was anything special, anything different about it. Seemed like... yeah, I don't think, I think more than anybody else, the Chinese didn't like us. Caucasians didn't matter. You'd find one or two here and there that called us "Japs" and stuff like that. But most of the people didn't care.

TI: But you said the Chinese maybe didn't like you more. Was that because Japan was fighting China?

YK: Yeah.

TI: And so did that feeling change? Because I think when you were younger, everything seemed to be okay when you were in kindergarten, things like that, so that sort of feelings between Chinese and Japanese sort of got worse because of what was happening in Asia, do you think?

YK: Yeah, I think so. Except the people you knew, that didn't change. It's our friends who were still friends. That part was okay, it's just that there are those that are just acquaintance, or sort of familiar with, their attitude was much stronger.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: While your father was gone, did you or your mother know where he was or what was going to happen?

YK: Uh-huh. He was in Missoula, Montana. That's where most of the people went to. Either Missoula or... what was it, Crystal City, Arizona?

TI: Well, Crystal City, Texas.

YK: Texas, yeah.

TI: But your father was at Missoula?

YK: Yeah.

TI: And why did the government release him? Was it because they realized it was a mistake?

YK: Yeah, I guess so. That was pretty unusual for them to release him so quick.

TI: Yeah. You don't hear too many people who went to Missoula and then got released before people had to go to the camps. And when your father returned, was it a surprise to you and your mother, or you knew that he was coming?

YK: I don't know. I can't remember that part. I assume that my mother knew. I don't remember.

TI: Well, can you remember when you first saw him, were you surprised or you knew he was coming?

YK: I guess I was kind of surprised to see him.

TI: And when he came, you said you had to move quickly. So on May 1st, did you already have the evacuation notices posted and things like that so you knew you had to leave?

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: And you mentioned how your mother was selling the business. Who was she selling it to?

YK: She sold it to an African American. A guy who used to live close by, and he made an offer, I guess. Not many people would make an offer, especially with the clientele we had, I guess it limited the kind of people that would want that business.

TI: And did you have a sense of whether or not your parents got a fair price for the business? Because a lot of people had to sell.

YK: That I don't know.

TI: Or did you have a sense that your parents were appreciative that someone would buy the business? Like you've mentioned, it was hard business to sell, and they were able to sell. Did you hear any, like, conversation whether or not they felt lucky?

YK: Well, there was the one person that wanted to buy it also got the better part of the deal. I think the price was beat down quite a bit. They didn't make much off of that. Mainly because there was no competition. And I think by the time my father came back, I think the deal was done already, so there's not much you can do. He would have probably done otherwise.

TI: When you say he would have done otherwise, what other options were there, do you think?

YK: Well, he could have talked to other people to see who would be interested in buying, because my mother didn't know anything about the business part of the deal. So she would take the one offer and that's it.

TI: Okay. And so do you remember what day you had to go to the Portland Assembly Center?

YK: May 4.

TI: Wow, so yeah, your dad was only there for like three days.

YK: Three days.

TI: So there wasn't much... and how did you go from your home to the Portland Assembly Center?

YK: I guess we went by cab from the hotel to the assembly center. That's all I can recall.

TI: That's interesting. You're the first person I've heard that went in a cab.

YK: Really?

TI: Usually they were buses or things like that, or trucks.

YK: Yeah, we just, there were three of us, and we didn't have that much baggage. So I'm pretty sure we went by cab.

TI: And what were your first impressions of the assembly center when you got there?

YK: Well, it was kind of a big hall. I'd never seen anything like that. The other thing is all you see is nothing but Japanese in there. They all look alike. [Laughs] Interesting.

TI: And for you to feel like... because you're, I'm trying to think, at this point you're like, what, twelve, twelve years old, thirteen years old?

YK: Thirteen.

TI: Thirteen. I'm guessing it might have been like an adventure in some ways.

YK: Yeah, sort of. Yeah, it's kind of a fun thing, because it didn't really soak in, you know. In fact, it was a lot of fun because you get to see your friends, and then you play with them all day long. You didn't get to do that at home, had to go to school and all that. So this was pretty neat.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So when you explored the Portland Assembly Center, what were some of the interesting places that you could remember?

YK: Well, one of the places was the horse arena, which was, had the stables and stalls for the horses. All the floors in the area were all boarded up. They had the planks on the floor with a maybe half an inch space in between. But the arena was where... in May it wasn't too bad, but when it got to be summer, it stunk, because of the horse stalls. And we were fortunate, we were in the dairy part of the assembly center, and so it was pretty clean and it didn't smell. The assembly center was... oh, the other thing is we never did have meals like that where everybody would all sit together in big long tables. The other thing was the food they gave us was not very good. It was, I remember two things: the Vienna sausage and hominy. Those are two things I'd never had before. Hominy I ended up liking because it tasted like corn. And I guess that was the army rations, that's pretty cheap. And then the other thing is they serve you food in big metal pans, I guess, army style. And then you get, like, Vienna sausage, a whole batch of those, and it wasn't nice like gourmet-style, two or three on each dish. Hominy the same way, great big pot of hominy. Those are the two things I remember that we ate. I imagine there were a lot of other things that we had, bread and things like that, but I don't remember ever having butter. But, oh, I guess food wasn't too bad. But one thing good about the fact that we were all together was before the war, there were a lot of Japanese restaurants, and either American or Japanese, and so we had a lot of cooks. And when we got in the assembly center and in Minidoka, in camp, that's where it really helped because each block had their own mess hall, and each group had their own cooks. And all these cooks with all the past experience, they sure come in handy.

TI: So they could make that food taste pretty good.

YK: Oh, yeah. They had some pretty bland stuff that they would make pretty good. And they would know what to do, you know, make the guys, army bring shoyu and things like that and make it tasty.

TI: So we're jumping ahead a little bit, but at Minidoka, did some blocks have, then, better cooks than others?

YK: I think so. But we all had the same menu. Some cooked better than the others, but most all of them were pretty good. Because once in a while we'd go to somebody else's block and eat the food there because of our friends, and stuff there was, I couldn't think of anything really negative, but they were all, the cooks were all pretty good. And I think there's probably three or four experienced cook in every block, so they, the core of the cooks were all able to do a good job.

TI: Going back to the Portland Assembly Center, you mentioned in the summertime when it got hot, the smells. I was also wondering about things like flies or bugs. Was that a problem at Portland?

YK: The flies was a problem, especially where the horse stalls were, arena. And we were okay 'cause we were in the dairy section, and dairies have a tendency to stay clean. And the other problem was when it got real hot, somebody got the bright idea of putting water on the boards to cool it down, and they did, but the problem is the people in the arena area, when they got the water down, it soaked into the dirt underneath and it smelled, manure and all that. And the flies increased, so somebody got hell for that one.

TI: Okay. So any other memories about Portland before we go to Minidoka?

YK: You mean the assembly center?

TI: Yeah, the assembly center.

YK: Oh, we used to have a place to play basketball in the arena, and we used to go to the canteen for candy and ice cream, mostly ice cream because it was summertime, and May to September was when we stayed. And, well, let's see... oh, yeah. There was one section where all the bachelors were. Those guys were playing cards all the time, gambling. We used to go watch them. We used to play ball outside, they had a... I think one ball diamond, and we used to play out there. But other than that, we're just fenced in in this big expo center building.

TI: Now did you ever have any visitors from outside to visit you and the family?

YK: No, I don't remember having any. Because we didn't know that many people outside. If we lived in a house in the residential area, there might have been some people, close neighbors. But we didn't have anything like that. And all the friends we knew, they were all together.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So let's go to Minidoka now. So you were at the Portland Assembly Center from May to September, and then people are then moved, or at least most of the people from Portland went to Minidoka.

YK: Minidoka.

TI: I mean, some went to --

YK: Tule Lake.

TI: -- Heart Mountain and Tule Lake.

YK: Yeah.

TI: So tell me about Minidoka. What was that like when you got there?

YK: Well, when we first got there, it was windy and dusty. And we looked like we were out in the desert somewhere. And I guess the first, at first it was, we had these barracks standing in nothing but barren land, and nothing around there. So it wasn't too bad at the beginning because it wasn't that windy. But once the wind whipped up, being tarpaper, single layer, dust came in all over and no way of stopping it. And so the dust was the biggest enemy. And after, let's see... then the winter came, and then it became cold. But fortunately, they gave us one potbelly stove for every apartment, that was good enough to keep us warm. And coal, there was plenty of coal. So much coal that you didn't have to hoard it. Some people have a tendency to hoard, and you can hoard so much coal, but what are you going to do with it?

TI: Now at Minidoka there were also lots of people from Seattle. How did the Seattle and Portland people get along?

YK: Oh, we got along okay. I think at the beginning, people have a tendency to stick with their own kind. But after a while, like going to school and things like that, you begin to mix. And pretty soon, it got to be pretty homogeneous.

TI: So it seemed like the people from Seattle, people from Portland, were pretty compatible or the same?

YK: Yeah, I think so. But one of the things is the fact that we were in the same boat together, you know. So we kind of looked at each other and agreed that we had a problem.

TI: Were there any groups at Minidoka that perhaps didn't mix in as well?

YK: I don't recall. I think maybe the Isseis might have been that way, but I don't remember the Niseis being that way, our group. We used to... in fact, the Portland group was the, we were right next to the Washington group, and on one end, and the other end was people from Bainbridge Island were at the other end. So we got to mix pretty good. Then pretty soon we got to play football together and things like that, they get mixed up pretty good.

TI: So when you started playing sports, did your teams group around, like, a Portland team versus a Seattle team, did you do things like that? Or was it just all mixed up?

YK: Basically it was more Seattle teams. There were some... well, there was Portland team, but Portland team didn't have as many people. And seemed like after a while... I guess it kind of stayed as Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, places like that. But it pretty much, it's just the fact that you were there, it just didn't have any prejudice against any group. Portland group, you know that the guys in that bunch were from Portland, Seattle, the same way. But there were a lot of them that were mixed in, like Portland, Gresham, and Vernonia, and some Eastern Oregon people. And Washington was same thing, you got people from Fife, Auburn, Tacoma, pretty much didn't matter too much.

TI: It sounds like, for a boy or young man, there were a lot of activities for you. Because you had lots of sports...

YK: That's what I got to thinking in retrospect. They did a lot of sports because there's not much else you can do. If we concentrate on sports, your delinquency goes down, right? So there's very little delinquency in the camps, although there were some delinquents, but that was a very small group.

TI: So was it a conscious effort to get, especially the boys, involved in sports, then?

YK: Yeah, I think pretty conscious because other than the fact that what else is there to do? If you had a job, or if you worked out in the farm, it'd take a lot of your time. But if you had sports and concentrate on sports, it would probably take at least half your time, and that would keep you occupied.

TI: That makes sense. How about your mother and father? How did they use their time?

YK: Oh, my mother worked in the rec. hall next to our barrack. That was a separate barrack which was a movie house, they showed movie every night. And she was there to clean up every day, and that was her job. My father was a fireman. Not the kind of fireman you think of, boilerman, I guess you'd call it. He'd stoke the fire for steam heat. Steam heat? Must have been steam heat. Yeah, I guess... anyhow, he was a boilerman.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: And tell me about school. What was school like at Minidoka?

YK: School was... well, it seems to me a lot easier, because it didn't have that kind of discipline that you would normally have. And they were teaching, I think... as I think back about it, is not as great as you would have in a regular academic school. I don't think they got the best teachers. And I can see why. Who would want to go out there in the middle of the desert and teach? So they got whatever they can get, and that was good enough. 'Cause we're out there in the middle of nowhere anyhow.

TI: So you mentioned, so it sounded like school was pretty easy for you, or not that rigorous. And so my notes say that you graduated pretty early. Weren't you only...

YK: I got out in three years.

TI: So you were about sixteen years old?

YK: Yeah.

TI: Was that common for other Niseis to go through so quickly?

YK: No, not really, because what happened was I had enough credit in three years to graduate. I don't remember how many credits I had to have, but I had enough so I could graduate in three years instead of four. So I didn't have to worry about where I was going my senior year, and that was a good thing.

TI: But then after you graduated in three years, what did you do? Because you didn't stay in Minidoka, you actually left.

YK: Yeah. In fact, I graduated June, and I think in July I went to school. I went to... summer semester, I went summer, winter, and spring, three semesters.

TI: And this is in Michigan that you went to?

YK: Western Michigan, Kalamazoo.

TI: So how did that come about? I mean, was there like an advisor or someone who set this all up for you? Because you graduated in June early, and then next month you're already in college. How did that happen?

YK: I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: So was there, someone, a teacher or somebody must have figured this out.

YK: Well, the advisor said that I can graduate if I want to, so what I did was, I guess I must have looked up all the different schools I could go to. And I remember I didn't want to go to a big school, so I ended up going to Western Michigan which is a small school. And it's not a big city either. So I didn't want go get wrapped up in a big city where things would probably go too fast. I just wanted to take it easy.

TI: So what was it like for you? Sixteen years old, you're on your own, you'd just left camp, so what was it like for you to be at Kalamazoo?

YK: Well, I don't know. I think it was pretty interesting. In fact, I was all set to do anything. I think most of my thinking was pretty positive back then. I went to school, I went to register, and I got, they gave me a scholarship when I got out of high school. And when I went to college, they didn't have it. So I think eventually that I got the scholarship. But at the beginning I think I had to pay my own way. So it wasn't a real setback. I don't remember how I got the place to stay. I didn't stay in the dorm, I stayed in a house run by a lady that she had three school tenants. Two blocks away, there was a Japanese family, I can't remember their name anymore. They were helpful in telling me about things.

TI: Now this Japanese family, were they, did they resettle from the camp? Do you remember which camp they were from?

YK: Seems to me they were from California, one of the California camps. And they were in, they were there probably at least a half a year or a year maybe, but they lived in the house. I remember they had, their family with two girls and a boy, I think. I can't remember too much about it. I didn't see 'em that often, but I ended up... oh, I got a job in the kitchen doing part-time job at the school. That helped my income a little bit.

TI: And you mentioned that you were there for summer, fall and spring quarter, so kind of like one year. And then you would return to, I guess, Portland?

YK: Portland.

TI: So why only one year? Why didn't you stay there longer?

YK: I guess I got homesick. I kind of got tired of school being on my own.

TI: Well, and plus, I guess Portland was open, too, you could go back to Portland rather the camp.

YK: Yeah.

TI: So when you returned to Portland, where were your parents staying? What were they doing?

YK: They had a small hotel on the east end of Hawthorne Bridge. It wasn't a very big one, but it was enough for an income. And I think they moved in about September, October, maybe even November of the year before. I came back here in March. My father ran the hotel, my mother worked at the Foster Hotel as a housemaid. Back in those days, didn't think anything about walking. I came home, I think, got off at the train at the railroad station, and walked over to see my mother at Foster Hotel, and then walked to my father's hotel, had two suitcases. And I was able to do all that walking. Back in those days, walking was...

TI: With suitcases.

YK: Yeah. Pretty standard.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Now after being back at Portland for a while, then you decided to join the army. And your service was primarily in Japan, that's where you were stationed. So I wanted to ask you about returning to Japan, because as a boy around nine or ten you were in Japan for a summer, and now you returned later. How had Japan changed?

YK: Well, from a kid's standpoint, I wasn't too much aware of anything back in '38. And when I went this time, it was pretty devastated. And so... I got first sent to Sasebo, Japan, and we were there, and somebody got a communicable disease, and so we were locked up for two months. Because I think the quarantine was on for two or three weeks, and when that was over, some else happened, and we'd be quarantined again. And so I had quarantine for a good two months, I remember. We didn't go anywhere, just stay in the building and go out, exercise, back into the building, that's about it. So all we can do is see things out the window, and there wasn't much to see. The only thing we could see from our barracks was the fact that Sasebo was where they put all the ships back, the Japanese army and navy, and they were dismantling them. And we could see one by one how they disappeared. But none of 'em were large, they were all... I think the largest thing was a destroyer. A lot of fishing boat sized ships. They were dismantling pretty fast.

TI: And what were they, why were they dismantling them? For the metal?

YK: Scrap.

TI: Scrap metal.

YK: Well, plus the fact that it was an enemy, it was a navy ship, so they didn't want the enemy ships around. They just destroyed 'em.

TI: So I'm wondering, after the quarantine, were you ever able to use your Japanese language skills in the army?

YK: Uh-huh.

TI: So describe that. What kind of work did you do?

YK: Let's see, when we first got out, I mean, when they first got us out of quarantine, they put me in... what was that? Oh, training aides. I can't remember, I think part of the headquarters group. But they gave me, I was only, I think I was only a corporal, but they gave me this building in charge of making training aides, and they would make replica guns and things like that out of wood to show how different parts worked and things like that. I was in charge of that.

TI: And would your workers be Japanese?

YK: All Japanese. But seemed to me there were about twenty or two dozen, and they were all craftsmen of some sort, because they were pretty good. They would see a manual of a gun, unexploded, exploded view of the gun itself, the bolt action and everything, and they would make a replica.

TI: They could figure it out?

YK: Yeah, pretty good. It's all made out of wood.

TI: Some of the Japanese literature, they talk about that sometimes, the Japanese felt that the Nisei soldiers were sometimes harsh with Japanese workers. Did you ever see that in terms of sometimes the Niseis... and part of what they would say is sometimes they thought the Nisei soldiers felt they needed to do this to show the other whites that they weren't Japanese, they were really more American. Was that kind of something that you saw when you were in Japan?

YK: No. Of course, when I was with the headquarters group, I was with a bunch of Hawaiians. They were a mixed group of Japanese, Korean, Hawaiian, Filipino. They were a pretty homogenous group. And as far as discrimination, we didn't have anything like that. And I was in charge of these Japanese people, but they were doing something I couldn't do anyhow, so I had respect for that and we got along pretty good. We didn't have any discrimination of that sort.

TI: But maybe do you think it may have happened in other places?

YK: Yeah, probably. You mean the Nisei?

TI: The Nisei, yeah, maybe not treating Japanese workers that well?

YK: Yeah, it's possible. But like us, we didn't have very many, and basically we were just infantry, so we just kind of, well, we were peons of the army, and we didn't have any animosity for others of lower rank, you might say.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Now when you were in Japan, were you able to visit your relatives?

YK: I got there, it seemed like it was in December or January, and in about... oh, about November or so, I think I got a furlough where they let me go to Toyama for one week, and so I took a train out there. And I don't know how the pass thing works or anything, but I remember I was able to go up to Toyama. I knew how to get there because I could read enough of the map and things to figure out what train schedule and so forth I'd have to take. In fact, it seemed like it took two days to get there. I went... let's see. I went to, yeah, that's right. So I started from Sasebo, which is down in the southern island of Kyushu, went through Kokura, and then got on to Honshu and went through Hiroshima. I remember going through Hiroshima because it was totally dark. There was no electricity, nothing. Couldn't even see anything out there.

TI: This was November 1946 or '47?

YK: '46. Let's see... '45, '46, '47.

TI: Because you went, you got to Japan December 1946, and this would be November of 1947.

YK: Yeah. And then '47, that's right. And then I spent a week there, and I saw all the relatives that I saw when I was a kid. And most of 'em weren't doing very well.

TI: Were not doing well?

YK: In fact, some of 'em got bombed out. Back in those days, you know, these buses for transportation, they were stoking charcoal to get 'em running. That's how desperate it was. It's pretty sad when you see them making fuel out of charcoal to make the bus run. But most of the people that I saw then were the ones that I saw back in, before the war. Oh, the other thing was I had an aunt and uncle that went to Manchuria, and they came back while I was still in Kyushu. They came back, and they happened to live about fifty miles from where I was stationed, so they came to see me, and they were pretty skinny. And then they... I saw 'em, must have been about two, three weeks after they repatriated from Manchuria, and then from there they went to Toyama, and somehow they couldn't get along with the ones that were there, so they went to Yokohama and that's when I met 'em. That was thirty years ago, after. But, let's see... we went up to, I went up to Toyama and saw the condition they were in. And so when I went back to Kyushu, I put in a request to the army that I'd re-up for another eighteen months. See, I was in for eighteen month at the beginning, and all my friends went elsewhere. Most of 'em went to Tokyo area, but I was down in Kyushu. And so I told 'em I was willing to re-up for eighteen month more if they transferred me, so they did. That surprised me that it was so easy.

TI: And where were you transferred? Where did you go?

YK: I went to Toyama.

TI: Oh, okay.

YK: I went to where my relatives were.

TI: And did you go because you wanted to help them?

YK: Yeah. But then the army doesn't know that. They saw that I wanted to go to Toyama and re-up, they said sure. That was easy for them, they got another body for eighteen more month, and they didn't know my motives.

TI: And so what kind of things were you able to do to help your family?

YK: Well, for one thing, I gave them money wherever I could, because it was 360 yen to a dollar, and a dollar went a long ways. Being in the military government, I was, you know, back, way out the sticks like that. In the Toyama Prefecture, in the city itself, the main city for the prefecture, they wield a lot of power. And we're the government, military government team advised the government, and so what we talked to them about carried a lot of weight. Then being out in the country, and it's not like being in Kyoto, Tokyo where higher-ups questioned what you do, but they didn't here. I did a lot of things. I got in as a, took care of the enlisted men's bar, because I could speak Japanese, and I could, and my legal government officer would give me a permit to go to the taxation office without the taxation office... and get, buy beer and sake without tax. I think the tax must have been about ninety percent of the cost of the bill rather, and I used to get that. I did it several times. One day I got a bright idea to go to the legal government office and get permit for ten cases of beer, and went down to the taxation office, got the permit for the beer, and went down to the brewery and have 'em deliver it to the entrance to our building and I sold it. I made a lot of money off of that one. That's all black market money. Black market, way up in the sticks like that, pretty prevalent. People have extra shirt or clothing, and they would sell it, and people would be buying it.

TI: And then with that extra money that you would make from the black market, would you then use that to help your family?

YK: Yeah, I'd give 'em proportion. I don't remember what it was now, but it probably, maybe cost... my cost was pretty negligible because minus the taxation, I didn't have to pay very much. So I got, seemed like I got a pretty good sum from the brewer or the distributor, that's what it was.

TI: Because you would get it from the brewery and sell to the distributor?

YK: No, I go to the taxation office and get the permit, and I get the permit and go to the distributor. And distributor would give me the goods at the cost, minus the tax. And they would deliver it.

TI: I see. And then who were your customers? Who would you sell...

YK: I didn't sell that. Oh, I sold it to a guy that worked in the military government. It was a Japanese guy that was a fence, he'd buy stolen goods or anything, and I would sell it to him, and he took care of everything. That was pretty neat. [Laughs]

TI: And you would do this like how frequently?

YK: Oh, I only did it twice.

TI: Okay.

YK: Didn't want to get caught. Besides, my legal government, lieutenant, he gets suspicious.

TI: If it happened too frequently.

YK: Yeah. Ten cases is a lot of beer.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Any other stories while in Japan during this time? Because I want to get you back to the United States, but anything else?

YK: In Japan?

TI: Any other memories?

YK: Oh, I would... I guess every, once a month or so, I would be a mail courier. Most of us people, we took turns being mail couriers from Toyama to Kyoto. And overnight stay and come back to Toyama. We'd have to pick up mail for our outfit, they didn't have any message or anything back in those days, so we'd have to go down and pick up the pouch, bring it back, and that was pretty neat because we'd go down at ten o'clock at night, get there six in the morning, and go to the billets of the noncom officers of I Corps of the army and have breakfast. Then, in the morning, I would do whatever business our outfit had to do with the I Corps government part, and then in the afternoon I'd pick up the mail and go down. I think the train must have been nine or ten in the morning, I mean, in the evening. So after I pick up the mail, I check it in at the railroad station, from about seven to eight-thirty or so I'd go down to the beer hall, and that's when I used to see some of the people I used to know from over here. Some of the guys that were stationed in Kyoto.

TI: And were these Niseis?

YK: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

YK: They were in the army.

TI: And so it was kind of like a reunion of some type.

YK: Sort of, yeah. Said, "What are you doing here?" [Laughs]

TI: Now was there a place in Kyoto that you knew that they would always be? I mean, is there like a special bar or someplace, or beer hall?

YK: There was one big beer hall, and I guess it was the biggest one or something, but that's where I used to see these people. I never saw 'em in the barracks because they were already all working by the time I got there. And drank a couple beers, go down, take a rickshaw down to the railroad station, grabbed a pouch, and get on the train. That was pretty good.

TI: It sounds like a good time. So we're coming to the end of the interview, but I want to ask one more question. And this is, you have a reputation as a pretty good pool player.

YK: Oh, yeah, used to.

TI: So I wanted to ask about that. How did you come about being such a good pool player?

YK: Lots of practice.

TI: And where'd that interest come from? How did you get interested?

YK: I don't know. I think... I know I played pool in the army, and you see lots of different people there, but found that I was better than most. I think I just pursued it there. Because I don't remember playing pool... I guess I played pool before the army when I was in Portland, and I didn't have too much time then, but I learned how to play. That kind of got me interested. Because it's a simple game, and doesn't take... well, it doesn't take much really skill to excel in that thing. Some of it when you talk about playing for money, it's just like The Hustler. But I wasn't interested in hustling, but we used to play among a certain group of people, and we always used to see how we can better the other. Shooting pool, it seemed like it was about fifteen, twenty years I did that. I got to be pretty good.

TI: And where in Portland did you shoot pool usually?

YK: Bud's Pool Hall mostly. Bud Yoshida had a pool hall right in Japantown. And after the war, he had it for, must have been twenty years.

TI: Good, okay. And just to finish up with your parents, so when you came back, were they still running that small hotel?

YK: No.

TI: What did they do after that?

YK: They tore that one down, and they moved to another hotel, which is right across the street from Shig Sakamoto's on First and Main.

TI: And what was the name of that hotel?

YK: Tourist.

TI: Tourist Hotel. And that small hotel they used to have, what was that called?

YK: I don't remember.

TI: Okay, good. So, Cannon, thank you. This was, went longer than I thought it was going to, but you had so many good stories. So thank you so much, we could have talked probably for another couple hours, there was so much to talk about. But, yeah, thank you so much.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.