Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kenji Onishi Interview
Narrator: Kenji Onishi
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 21, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-okenji-01-0020

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TI: We jumped around a little bit, we covered your military service. I'm going to now take you back to Minidoka and I guess one question, so you came from the Portland area, kind of knew the Portland community. At Minidoka, you're getting... and at the assembly center, you started getting people from other outlying communities. But now at Minidoka, you now have this large contingent of Japanese Americans from Washington state, and mostly from Seattle. I'm curious, how did the Portland and Seattle people get along?

KO: I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: Well, did you come in much contact with Seattle Japanese Americans?

KO: Well, we lived in Block 31. Block 29, 30, 31, 32 on up to Block 39 or so were all Portland people. But at the same time, Block 36, 38, 40, 42 had Seattle people. So those blocks ran side by side with Seattle people. Most of the Seattle people lived below Block 28; from Block 1 up to Block 28 were almost all Seattle people. I don't know of any Portland families down that way. (...) But every now and then -- of course, I met a lot of Seattle people from the lower blocks in high school there. And like I say, I don't really get close to a lot of people. I see them and observe them and appreciate their being there, but I really never got to know people real close. And yet, today, a lot of people that I met during that time are friends of mine, since I have come up to Seattle.

TI: And you kind of knew them through that camp experience because of Minidoka?

KO: Right.

TI: Like my parents were there, and about the same age as... I think my mom may have graduated from Hunt High the same year that you did.

KO: Yeah, and your uncle, Chuck Kinoshita, I remember from when he must have been about fifteen or so, there was one year when Chuck and his bunch of friends went out from camp to work at the Twin Falls labor camp during harvest, and I was there with my bunch of friends. We might have even been in the same building at the same time. But I remember your uncle from camp days, and then, of course, much later here in Seattle as well.

TI: And growing up in the community, kind of a Sansei experiences, you're always impressed that your parents know so many different people, and I think it's from the camp experience. Because you would say, "How would you even know this person?" "Oh, they were in Block so and so," or, "I knew them in high school." Because, yeah, their network of... and I wouldn't even say friends, but just people they know, because they would all say, "I think they were so and so from here," and so that's kind of a common thing I hear. So that's always interesting to me.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.