Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shig Imai Interview
Narrator: Shig Imai
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Hood River, Oregon
Date: October 30, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ishig-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: So, Shig, when and where were you born?

SI: Oh, I was born in Dee, Oregon. Dee is a ghost town now, but I think it was when the Oregon Lumber Company was having a sawmill, why, it was quite an establishment because all the people lived down there. And up on the flat was just farmers. But there was a lot of people living right around the sawmill. And there was even, I could remember using the railroad section crew that was composed by Japanese. It was two locomotives running up and down, one's from Hood River to Parkdale, and then Dee, Dee had their own locomotive, steam locomotive, that went up toward Lost Lake to get the timber. So they had two steam locomotives at Dee. It was unusual. So there was two railroad maintenance crews that were composed of quite a few Japanese.

LT: Okay, so you grew up in a vibrant Japanese community.

SI: Oh, it was. I can show you the pictures if you want me to.

LT: Sure, how about if we look at those later?

SI: There was oodles of Japanese on the Dee flat.

LT: Okay. So when we were you born?

SI: January 16, 1920.

LT: Okay. And what was your full name?

SI: Shigenobu Imai. [Laughs]

LT: All right. Well, let's talk about your parents first before we come back to Dee and your growing up. What was your father's name where was he born?

SI: Father's name was Tomoyoshi Imai, and mother's name was Kotono Moriyasu. And Father came from Okayama-ken, that's right... oh, where is that? it was near Hiroshima, but Okayama was the prefecture there, he'd come from. And then Mother came from that same area, but...


LT: So you were talking about your father and your mother?

SI: Yeah, Dad... our grandpa was here in America before he came, and he went back, and then he said for Dad to come to America, and then his brother, Dad's brother was Mr. Kusaji, Masaji Kusaji. So they both came to America. And they started to work on the railroads, and then when Dad came to Dee, he went to work for that lumber mill, sawmill, Oregon Lumber Company. And I don't know where Masaji came, but he ended up at Dee, too. But he took his wife's, first wife's name, so he was Kusaji. And so he took the name Kusaji, so he wasn't an Imai anymore. That's the way they do in Japan, is they take the family name.


LT: And actually, I think we'll go ahead and leave your brother's story, but I think I'll get back to your father who was born in Okayama, and you were talking about his reason for coming to the United States?

SI: Was his dad or grandpa says to come to U.S. He came, and then when he came, soon as he landed, I guess, they fixed up... you know, Japan, somebody else fixed up the marriage, so they both came off the ship at the same time and here they married. My mother was sent at the same time, I guess, so they landed in Seattle and they just got married there. [Laughs]

LT: So they both came on the same ship?

SI: I guess. I don't know how they come about. I'm not too sure how they came, separate boat or whatever it was. But anyway, there was, you know, they always fixed marriages over there, they didn't pick their choice. So anyway, they got married in Seattle, then he came to, there was a lot of work on the railroad, so eventually he'd end up in Hood River. Of course, railroad work was about over by the time he came in, I think he came over in 1916. So he came to Dee, well, when he came to Dee, then he started working for a lumber mill down there, Oregon Lumber Company.

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