Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Kenji J. Yaguchi Interview
Narrator: Kenji J. Yaguchi
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Lake Oswego, Oregon
Date: April 20, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ykenji-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

LT: This is an interview with Dr. Kenji Yaguchi at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The date is Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Dr. Yaguchi is here, I am Linda Tamura, and Ian McCluskey is handling the videotape. So let's begin, Dr. Yaguchi. Can you tell us your full name?

KY: My full name is Kenji James Yaguchi.

LT: How did you get the name James?

KY: I don't know. I don't know... that's my middle name. It's not on my birth certificate, but I got that name when I was a young kid.

LT: Okay. And when were you born and where were you born?

KY: I was born in Tacoma, Washington, December 22, 1922.

LT: Okay. And your father, what was his name and where was he born?

KY: My father's name is Tsuqio Yaguchi, he was born in Japan in Nagano-ken near Nakashina.

LT: Okay. And that's in central southeastern Japan?

KY: Yeah, it's northeast of Tokyo.

LT: What kind of work did your father's family do in Japan?

KY: They had a farm, a huge farm. They raised all kinds of things, but the one I could remember is wasabi. You'd be surprised how wasabi is raised. It's raised on the riverbed, on the rocky riverbed. You had to have fresh water, and this is how they raised the wasabi. Then he had a lot of grapes, a lot of vegetables, all kinds of trees, pears, apples, peaches. He had a pretty huge farm.

LT: About how much acreage did they have?

KY: About (40-60 acres). You know, in those days, (an average) farm in Japan was five acres.


LT: So your father was living in Japan on a very successful large farm. How did he decide to leave Japan and come to America?

KY: In his second year in college he decided to visit the United States because he heard so much about it. And his intention was only to visit, not to stay. And the way it wound up, he came and he stayed and he never went back, never.

LT: What was it about United States that prompted him to stay here rather than to be a tourist?

KY: Yeah, he just came as a tourist, because, like I said, he heard so much about it. And he was curious.

LT: What did he look like when he got off the ship?

KY: Well, surprising, they tell me that he wore a top hat and a tuxedo in those days, and that's how he walked out on the gangplank in Seattle. [Laughs] So he came like a typical tourist.

LT: [Laughs] Well, he looked very different from many of the other Issei who came to the United States.

KY: And after he was here about six months, he ran out of money. And his family was pretty wealthy, so they used to send him money about every six months.

LT: So after he ran out of money from his family, what did he decide to do in the United States and where did he settle?

KY: He settled in Fife, Washington, and you'd be surprised what he started: a hog ranch. He started to raise hogs, and there were about three other Isseis raising hogs in Tacoma, and that's where he got the idea of raising hogs. And they used to go to Tacoma to other restaurants and collect garbage right in the restaurant, take that thing home in a big vat, he put all the garbage in a big vat and mixed it with mill ground wheat, and cooked it, and that's what they fed their hogs. And the hogs were clean, because they were raised on a platform, three different levels, platform, so they're all clean. You think about hogs raised on dirt, that's what I thought. Not our hogs, they were on platforms, which was real... and that was real unusual, 'cause the rest of the farmers did the same thing, so he copied them.

LT: And these were wooden platforms?

KY: Yeah.

LT: Okay. And you said that he lived in Fife, and that is near Tacoma?

KY: Yeah. It's about, oh, only about three or four miles from Tacoma.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.