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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

LT: So after your father became a successful hog farmer, how did he meet your mother?

KY: You know, in those days, they'd go with baishakunin. What that means is their wives are chosen by some other person and you had to marry her whether you wanted or not. I heard that one of the reasons why he didn't go back to Japan, he had a girlfriend that he wanted to marry, but it didn't work that way. In those days, the wife was chosen for you. And maybe that was, my sister said maybe that was one of the reasons why he never went back to Japan. Kind of unusual story, but that's what happened.

LT: What do you think might have happened if he had married his girlfriend instead?

KY: Well, I don't think they would have permitted that in Japan in those days. Because your mate is chosen by somebody else, in other words, baishakunin.

LT: Even if you're in another country across the ocean.

KY: Yeah. [Laughs]

LT: Okay. So where was your mother from, and how was she connected with your father?

KY: Well, she was born and raised in Nakashina. She went to four-year college in Tokyo, and she, after graduation, she was teaching grade school in Japan. And she was, she probably taught about three (or four) years, then she was chosen to be my father's wife.

LT: And when did they marry?

KY: Probably... well, let's see, I've got to figure this out. Probably in (1910), something like that. No, it can't be that. It had to be either (1910 or 1912), had to be that.

LT: Okay.

KY: Because he came here in (1904-1906).

LT: Okay, thank you. And she was six years younger than your father.

KY: Yes.

LT: So your mother did die when you were a youngster.

KY: My mother died when I was about two and a half years old, (in 1925). So I don't remember her whatsoever. Two and a half years old, you don't remember anyone. So I consider my stepmother as my mother.

LT: What was your father like?

KY: My father was in some sense a disciplinarian, in other sense, he was real soft, two dichotomies. It was kind of strange. We all respected what he has to say, but he was also a character. He was a good singer, a good speaker, he was president of all kinds of Japanese organizations in Fife and Tacoma. He was president of the Japanese school, president of the Japanese Society, president of something else, but he was president of everything that was around there.

LT: Can you give an example of what he was like as a father?

KY: Huh?

LT: Can you give an example from your childhood with your father?

KY: Like I say, he was a disciplinarian, so we had to work, whatever he said, we did. I didn't know any better, so I did say. There was no comparison with anything else at that time.

LT: For example, if you did something wrong, what would be the consequences?

KY: He would lecture you. He never physically spanked us or anything. We got by pretty good that way, because I don't remember him ever striking me in any way, but he would lecture to you.

LT: What did he say?

KY: He says, "There's two things, the right thing and the wrong thing. You did the wrong thing." So that always stuck to me, right and wrong.

LT: Important lessons.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LT: As a child, you had a lot of responsibilities on the farm and in the home. Can you talk about those?

KY: Yeah. My job was to... when you have a hog ranch and they're raised on a platform, rats. Rats were between, under the platform. It was my job to kill those rats, and I got one penny for every rat I killed, but I had to prove it, I'd have the tail, so there was no way I could cheat. I had to have the tail, and so I kept the tail. And I got pretty close to a thousand rats in a couple years, and got a penny apiece, that was a lot of money in those days. My father furnished the .22 and the shells, and that's what I used to kill the rabbits, the rats. .22 rifle, boom.

LT: So you learned to become a good shot, and you earned ten dollars. So how did you dispose of the rats before you cut the tails?

KY: No, as soon as I killed them, I buried 'em.

LT: As you got older, you also had responsibilities for rabbits.

KY: Oh, yes. I tried to raise rabbits after we moved from Fife to Firwood, and the railroad track spur was right in front of us. And the railroad boxcars will haul hay. And there's always crops of hay left. And I used to go to the spur and collect all the alfalfa scraps. That's what I used to feed my rabbits. That was their staple food. Plus vegetables, we used to raise carrots, onions, whatever. I also used that, too.

LT: So how many rabbits did you take care of at one time?

KY: I almost had seventy, eighty rabbits. I started off with two and raised, before I know, I had about seventy, yeah, about seventy, eighty.

LT: And where did you keep them, and what did you do every day to take care of them?

KY: No, see, rabbits were raised in a screened, like a box. And being screened, all the pellets would fall down to the bottom, so it was easy to raise rabbits in those days. I used to sell the rabbits live or dressed, either way. I could charge more for, it was dressed I got fifty cents a rabbit, undressed was twenty-five cents. And those days, I thought that was a lot of money.

LT: And how old were you when you were doing this?

KY: Gosh, I was in the sixth, seventh, eighth grade. So six, twelve, thirteen... twelve, thirteen.

LT: Were there any jobs you didn't like?

KY: The job I didn't like was I had to take the horse from Firwood to Fife, and I had to drag it, because it wouldn't let me ride it. So I'd lead the horse about five miles. Oh, I thought that was real boring. That was probably one of the worst jobs I ever had on the farm. From this farm to this farm. But I only did that only for about a year because about that time, we had tractors then. We had a [inaudible] single, two wheel tractor for small jobs, so we didn't need a horse anymore.

LT: By the way, how long did it take for you and Bessie to move from Firwood to Fife?

KY: Four or five hours. That's a long time.

LT: That is a long time. Now, you also had a farm.

KY: Huh?

LT: You also had a farm. Did you have responsibilities on your family farm?

KY: Yeah. You're being in the farm like that, there's work all the time. All the crops had to be harvested, like pickles, we took pickles, and had to be a certain (size). Can't be big, had to be about three inches, and we used to sell that to Nalley's. You heard of Nalley's? The Nalleys started a pickle farm, I mean, pickle, making pickles in Tacoma, Washington, that's where it first started. Now Nalley's are all over the United States. But they make stuff in New Jersey, New Orleans, all over the place.

LT: So you raised cucumbers for the pickles. What else did you raise?

KY: Oh, gosh, all kinds of vegetables: carrots, celery, cabbage, lettuce, turnips, name it, we raised it. Beans, peas, all that, all those crops.

LT: And so what was your responsibility on this farm?

KY: My responsibility is to harvest all those, cabbage, lettuce, celery, and get it ready for market.

LT: So what did you think about that job?

KY: Oh, I kind of enjoyed it. I didn't think that was bad. Number one, I felt that we had to do it. And if we had to do it, hey, make it fun. So I did make it fun.

LT: So how did you do that?

KY: Well, while you were harvesting, all the kids would sing, sing church songs in those days.

LT: Was there a favorite church song?

KY: Oh, gosh, there were so many of them, I can't tell you. All the church songs that we used to sing.

LT: Do you remember any that you could sing for us now?

KY: Oh, no. [Laughs] No, I should be able to, because in Ontario, I became a... we were Methodist all our lives. My mother was a Methodist, my father was a Buddhist but he raised us as Methodist. And when I was in Ontario, Oregon, I belonged to the church, I was chairman of the board and things like this. I also became a certified lay speaker in the Methodist church. And the responsibility of a certified lay speaker is to fulfill the pulpit when the minister is absent, whether it's your church or other churches in your area. Like we had another Methodist church in Ontario, Payette, Weiser, Payette and New Plymouth. I used to go to all those churches. They would call me and ask me if I would like to do it. I used to kind of enjoy that.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

LT: Let's talk about your family when you were growing up. There were nine of you all together.

KY: Huh?

LT: There were nine of you all together.

KY: Yeah, there were six of us to start with, then my father remarried to a lady that had two kids, a daughter and a son. Then they had one in between, so that made it nine.

LT: Okay. And you were the second to the youngest?

KY: Second to the youngest.

LT: So what was mealtime like in a Japanese family living in the United States in Fife, Washington?

KY: You know, we had a huge table, and we didn't use chairs, we used benches, clean around that. That was in Fife, and my mother used to do all the cooking. And after, then after that, my second oldest sister did all the cooking. And we used to, we ate good. Not bad at all. We all had plenty to eat, always.

LT: So you made use of the animals that you raised?

KY: Oh, yeah.

LT: And the vegetables on your farm?

KY: Oh, yeah. Then you know, you buy beef and pork and all that, chicken. No, we ate good.

LT: So what kinds of foods did you eat? Was it Japanese food, American food?

KY: I think it's Japanese food more. Because you had rice twice a day, and with cooked vegetables and meat, pickles, and all that. But we ate good. That's one thing, we ate good. Like breakfast we had ham and eggs, milk or chocolate. There was no problem there.

LT: Did you make mochi?

KY: Yes, once a year we made mochi. In fact, about five different, other families would get together at our place, because we had the facility to pound mochi, a stick and hammer. There was a wooden hammer. So we would spend all day long making mochi for five or six different families.

LT: And what exactly is mochi?

KY: Huh?

LT: What exactly is mochi?

KY: Mochi is rice, and you pound it... got, it got a real smooth consistency, mochi. You'd never think with rice, you could do that with rice, but that's what it is.

LT: And who did the pounding?

KY: We all did. First you use sticks. The hammer was used at the very end, you know, you picked it. My father or mother will take that and turn it, bang, turn it, bang, turn it, bang. You've probably seen it.

LT: And then where did you store the mochi after you made it?

KY: Well, after we made it, we had a cellar, a cool place. An earth, cellar made out of earth, and kept there, and it's real cool in there, and it will keep for months. Keep almost a year.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

LT: So when you began school in first grade, did you speak English or Japanese?

KY: Mixed. I spoke, and that's the reason why my first grade I failed. I had to take first grade over again because I couldn't pass it. And once I mastered the English language, school was simple. Then I really enjoyed going to school.

LT: Can you share an example from first grade about the challenge you had in communicating with your teacher?

KY: I had no problems after the second grade. I had real good communication with my teachers, and I had real good grades. Mostly As, a few Bs.

LT: In fact, by the time you were in high school, your grades were very good.

KY: Oh, yeah. When I was in high school, favorite subject is history. I loved history. I never thought I'll graduate first in the class, but end of the year, I was, I graduated as the valedictorian of the class. I never thought I'd ever get there. I wasn't trying for it.

LT: Quite an accomplishment for someone who had difficulty speaking English in first grade.

KY: Yeah, yeah.

LT: Well, in fact, when you began school what was the makeup of your class in terms of Japanese Americans and white Americans?

KY: About half, fifty-fifty.

LT: Okay. And did that create confusion or issues in terms of different backgrounds and looking different?

KY: No. My best friends were all white Americans. Matter of fact, when... maybe I'm jumping the gun, but when we were in the assembly camp in Puyallup, my classmate would come and visit me almost every day. And we were there about four months, and I still communicate with 'em for, until just recently because they passed away now, most of them. Not too many of us (are) left.

LT: Do you have any thoughts about what it was that you or your teachers or your friends did in the early days in school because you looked different, you came from different backgrounds, you didn't always speak the same language? What was it that promoted such cohesiveness?

KY: You know, it's... I didn't know any difference, really. Because like I said, once I mastered the language, it was simple, because you were able to communicate with your other classmates. So it was fun going to school. I just loved to go to school.

LT: Well, not only school, but you also participated in a lot of activities in school.

KY: Oh, yeah. When I was eight years old I started judo, and we used to have tournaments all over Tacoma, Seattle. Two teams in Seattle, Kent, Auburn. Yeah, I used to look forward to go to those tournaments.

LT: And then at school you also participated in activities.

KY: Oh, yeah. In high school I was a wrestler, and I was state champion for three different years. And I played (football), baseball and track.

LT: And football?

KY: Oh, football, oh, yeah. As small as I was, I played varsity football. I was a hundred and seventeen pounds, and I'm the lightest guy in the whole team. And in 1938 we won the state championship, so we already had a good team.

LT: So I'm wondering, you worked a lot at home on the farm, you participated in judo, you participated in school activities, athletics, and you also were valedictorian of your high school class. How does one person juggle all of that at one time and still also develop such strong friendships?

KY: I don't think it was hard, I thought it was just natural. Everything came natural to me in high school.

LT: It would be wonderful to learn your secret. You did attend --

KY: You know, I kind of think it was probably, indirectly my father probably taught me all those things.

LT: In what ways? What did he teach you that resonated in your life?

KY: Well, because of the things he used to tell us, like he said, right and wrong. These are two things you got to follow. He said, "Never follow this one, you follow this one." And that was his, gist of his speech, most of the time.

LT: You did attend Japanese language school for a while.

KY: Yes. I went because my father was the president of the Japanese school. I didn't want to go, but (in) the second year (...) I punched the schoolteacher. [Laughs] And, of course, that expelled me. I was glad to be expelled.

LT: How did your parents feel about that?

KY: You know, they didn't say anything about it. My father didn't punish me or say anything. I don't know why, he probably thought that maybe I would, I did the right thing, I don't know. I have no idea what he was thinking about.

LT: Well, growing up, you balanced American and Japanese culture. What did you learn about Japan and Japanese culture from your parents?

KY: Gosh, I never gave that a thought. But I think one of the things they taught me was gaman. That was probably the principal thought behind the Japanese people was be able to gaman.

LT: And how would you translate that?

KY: Forgiveness. You forgive anything that... whatever happens in your life, you have to be able to forgive it, especially if it's real wrong. Forgive those who will try to harm you, because basically they don't really intention to do it, but it happens.

LT: Can you give an example from your early life?

KY: You know, I never had any problem like that, because of my training in judo and wrestling, I wasn't afraid of anyone. So that never entered in my mind.

LT: Thank you.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

LT: Let's talk about Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. How old were you and what were you doing?

KY: I was in the kitchen at the time, and the screen door opened and slammed, and my sister ran into the house, I was in the kitchen having breakfast. And my sister says, "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." And to me, I said, "What? Where's Pearl Harbor?" [Laughs] I never thought of it any other way. She says, "Hawaii." "Oh, okay." And that was the end of that conversation. I felt, "What is little Japan attacking a big country like the United States?" but there's a lot of history to this. After I found out because of the balance of trade was not in favor of Japan, it was favor of the other nation. And the only way for Japan to survive is to get equal treatment, and I think that's the reason why they attacked the United States and retaliation. At least that's what I read.

LT: So you wondered where Pearl Harbor was. What were you thoughts? Were you worried, were you scared? How did you feel?

KY: I felt kind of depressed at first. As a matter of fact, I didn't want to go to school that morning, but I did go. All my classmates never interacted in any way against you because you were Japanese, and that made me feel much better after that.

LT: So no one said anything or did anything?

KY: No one. Not one.

LT: Did anyone express remorse or support for you?

KY: No. End of subject when I went to school. Nobody talked about it.

LT: And you were a senior at Fife High School at the time.

KY: Yes, senior.

LT: Okay. Well, how did that affect your parents and your family life?

KY: You know, I can't read their minds, but I'm quite sure they were really concerned. I could see it on their face that they were concerned. They never expressed it in words, their concern, but I could see that they were, they were same as if they were thinking what the future would bring them because of that.

LT: So were there cautions afterwards in terms of travel or making purchases or home searches? What happened to you and your family in the days after Pearl Harbor?

KY: Nothing. Everything was like it was before, nothing. Everybody treated us fine, and we were surprised when President Roosevelt executed 9066, and all the Japanese on the West Coast were incarcerated in concentration camps. That probably hit me more than anything. Matter of fact, the mayor of Tacoma, Mayor Cain, says, "Do not take them to camp. You leave them where they are, I'll vouch for them." But government won't listen to him. Did you know that? You know, it takes a lot of guts from the person, especially the mayor, to come out like that.

LT: Did your neighbors take action or say anything?

KY: No. They were just as much shocked as I was.

LT: Well, your family had a huge farm. What arrangements did you need to make?

KY: Okay. My brother had a good friend in Tacoma, and he had a market, his name is Harvey Braga. He volunteered to take care of our farm after we got back. We had everything planted, some about ready to harvest already. I said, "You keep all the money, you just take care of the farm." So that was the arrangement we made, and when we came back, he handed the farm back to us, and started all over again.

LT: Now you were going to high school, you were a senior. How did you finish out your year?

KY: Well, sixty years later, I actually graduated in January. So I was through school, because I graduated in... not everyone did, but I did because I was the valedictorian and my school was open.

LT: You finished your credits early?

KY: Oh, yeah. Then we were formally, (...) the formal graduation was sixty years later, you saw that certificate up there. That was sixty years later, we had our formal graduation. I thought that was pretty good.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

LT: So after Executive Order 9066, you and your family knew that you would need to leave Fife. How did you make plans to leave, and what did you decide to take and leave?

KY: Well, we were only allowed two suitcases. We jammed everything we can in two suitcases, everybody did the same thing, that's all we took. Because a lot of our stuff we left behind, because it was left in the house.

LT: So what were personal items that you took, and what were personal items that you left?

KY: You know, your personal hygiene, toothbrushes, razors, soap, and change of clothes, shoes. Two suitcases is not very much. But when we went to camp, were able to order through Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward, so we bought clothes through them.

LT: Where there items that you left that you really would have wanted to have taken?

KY: No. Because clothes, it didn't make a difference to us because we knew we could buy more clothes there.

LT: How did you leave? How did you leave your home?

KY: We went in our trucks, and our neighbors drove us to camp, it was only three miles away, to Puyallup.

LT: And you were at the Puyallup Assembly Center.

KY: Yeah.

LT: Okay. What did you say to your classmates, your friends? You had developed such good relations with them.

KY: I said, "I'll be back. Guaranteed, I'll be back." And I was back.

LT: So can you tell us, you and your family had lived in Fife for all of your life. You were leaving your home, you didn't know when you would be coming back. What goes through your mind when you're leaving your home?

KY: You know, we were taught to obey the law. My father, that's one thing he taught us, to obey the law. And we personally thought that the government will do the right thing, so it didn't enter my mind, anything else. We were just following orders. But it turned out that it wasn't that way afterwards.

LT: So because it was a government order, you felt the government was appropriate.

KY: At first. But I thought afterwards, I said, "That was the wrong thing."

LT: Was it difficult to say goodbye to your classmates and friends?

KY: Oh, yes, it was real difficult.

LT: Can you remember what you said to them or what they said to you?

KY: All I can remember, I said, I told them, "Hey, I'll be back. If I'm able to come back, if I'm alive, I'll be back." And I was. This may be jumping the gun, but I went to, right after the war, I was still in my uniform, I went into a barber, it was full of people. I sat down, and he was cutting hair, he says, "I don't cut Japs' hair." So I said okay, I just left. Went to the barber two blocks away. He didn't last one month later. No men would go to him because all those guys that were waiting, I knew them, so they didn't go back to him, so pretty soon there was no more business, so he had to leave. And I wasn't sorry that that happened. He did the wrong thing, so that was the end of that as far as I was concerned.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LT: This is part two of our interview with Dr. Kenji Yaguchi on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. So after Executive Order 9066, you and your family were went to Puyallup, the assembly center, and it was actually familiar to you.

KY: Oh, yeah. It's only three miles away from our farm, and it was a fairgrounds. We used to go all the time, and as FFA president, we used to have displays at the fair every year. So I'm real familiar with that.

LT: And to clarify, you were president of the Future Farmers of America at your high school.

KY: Yes.

LT: Well, this time, you were going not for display, not for special programs, but you were going there with your family to live. How did it look different? What did you see, what did you smell, what did you hear?

KY: I wasn't very happy with the life in the Puyallup Assembly Center. We were in shacks, you know, those buildings, a barrack, if you talk on this end of the barrack, you could hear it on the other end. It was all open. Single wall, knotholes, so it was not very good place to stay. And for a mattress, they gave us mummy bags, and they had straw in the field ground. And we had to go (there), gather the straw, put it in the mummy bag, and that was our mattress in Puyallup. They gave us two blankets, no sheet, (only) two blankets.

LT: What is a mummy bag?

KY: Mummy bag is a bag U.S. army gives you. If you're killed in action during the war, they put you in a mummy bag. That's what a mummy bag is, it's a huge bag about that wide, six feet, no, about seven feet. About six and a half feet. We stuffed it with straw, and that was our mattress.

LT: Did you know it was a mummy bag when you were sleeping on it?

KY: I didn't know what mummy bag was until I asked what the military used this for, and that's what they told, somebody told us it was the bag they used when you were killed in action in the field and put you in there and took you wherever they had to.

LT: How did it feel after you learned that?

KY: Oh, I had no choice. [Laughs] Either sleep on that or sleep on the floor.

LT: So at camp, how did you spend your time?

KY: Well, you know, when we first went in there, they gave us some bad food. Everybody got sick, diarrhea, vomiting. But after a while, after a month or so, the food improved and at least you could eat it. But at first it was just lousy.

LT: What kind of food, can you remember what you were served?

KY: Horse meat. [Laughs] A lot of horse meat. Something must have been spoiled, either the meat or something else.

LT: And how was the horse meat prepared?

KY: Well, they made goulash out of it, made steaks out of it, stews, everything.

LT: Well, it was at Puyallup where you said that your classmates came to visit you.

KY: Yes. You know, that was, for me, that was kind of real emotional. I was happy to see them, but at the same time I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, which I caught myself doing and I said, "You can't do that. You've got to keep going." So after I talked to myself to behave like I should, and everything turned out okay.

LT: Now, were your friends able to come into the camp to visit you?

KY: No, no. They were on the outside. Outside of the barbed wire fence.

LT: So how did you converse with them?

KY: Well, the fence is right here, they're here, I'm right here. So there was no problem talking with each other.

LT: Do you remember the conversations that you had with your friends?

KY: Oh, gosh. Everyday functions, school, sports, whatever. Whatever high school kids would talk about, that's what we did.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LT: Well, in August of 1942, your family moved to Minidoka, which was one of the camps prepared for Japanese Americans. You actually stayed longer at Puyallup.

KY: I stayed two months longer to tear down the barracks. Because I didn't want to go right away, I wanted to stay in Puyallup as long as I can. So we were there for two extra months, and, you know, we had to tear down a lot of barracks. Took two months to tear down all the barracks. When we got through, they took us to the train, and they drew all the curtains. All the curtains were drawn down, you couldn't see outside. That's how we came to Minidoka.

LT: Why was it that you were not able to see outside?

KY: How did it feel like? Well, kind of felt like you were a prisoner, because you couldn't see outside. Even when we got into Idaho, before we got to Minidoka, curtains were still drawn. And soldiers with fixed bayonets were walking back and forth on the aisle. And I don't think there was a single instance of any trouble, at least in... I never heard of any problems, did you? No.

LT: When you finally stopped, when the train finally stopped and you were able to look outside, you were at Twin Falls.

KY: Yeah, Eden.

LT: What did you see?

KY: Desert. [Laughs] I said, "What kind of place are we?" It was desert, sagebrush, hot and dusty.

LT: And you were taken to your living quarters at Minidoka.

KY: Yes, by trucks. Packed us in the trucks and took us into, where my family was staying. And by that time my family was staying in Block 42. And after we were there in 42 for a couple months, they moved us to 44, that's the end barracks of Minidoka, 44, where, right next to the barbed wire fence.

LT: And why was that?

KY: Why? I don't know why, 'cause we were the last to move in. And people from Tacoma, and some of the people from Portland were in Block 44.

LT: What did your living quarter look like at Minidoka?

KY: It was quite improved. The barracks were double wall, the ceiling, it would close, so we had two rooms. And if you talked in your barrack, your neighbor couldn't hear you. There was quite an improvement in the building, and all the wall was covered with a black building paper, you've probably seen the... have you ever seen the barracks? Yeah. It's covered with, it was double walled, but the outside was covered with black paper.

LT: And what about your bedding?

KY: No, we had mattresses, and we had army cots.

LT: Well, what was your daily routine at Minidoka?

KY: Okay. First thing I volunteered for, haul coal, (from the) spur, Eden, into camp, which is about six miles away, (...) I mean, coal to all the restaurants, all the kitchens. And that was a lot of fun.

LT: Well, it sounds like dirty work.

KY: Oh, yeah, it was dirty work, but you know, we enjoyed doing that because we'd get out of the camp, six miles out of the camp. There were no guards, so that was good. They left us on our own honor.

LT: And where did you deliver the coal?

KY: To the kitchens. All the kitchens in the forty-four blocks, that's what we did. Then... you don't do that all day, so I was bored, so Willie Tahara and I formed the Boy Scouts. You probably saw my card? Assistant Scoutmaster, Hunt, Idaho, 1943.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LT: So you had been a Boy Scout for five to six years growing up. And that influenced an activity that you organized while you were at Minidoka.

KY: Yes. You know, like I said, I was bored, so I had something to do, and that was one thing I could say was constructive. Secondly, I was able to take the boys out of the camp for field trips like fishing, all that kind stuff, and other people couldn't do that. We were able to do it. They gave us permission. So that much influence the Boy Scouts had on the administration, so they encouraged us to do more of that.

LT: How many boys were involved in your Boy Scout troop?

KY: Oh, we had quite a few, fifty, maybe more. Yeah, we had a big group.

LT: And this was the only Boy Scout troop at Minidoka.

KY: Yeah.

LT: Well, what is the Boy Scout motto and what significance did that have for you in camp?

KY: Okay. The basic principle is "be prepared," that's what we teach the boys, be prepared for whatever happens. So that's the reason why you have all these different activities, to prepare the boys to be prepared for the future. That's the function of the Boy Scouts. That would make a good boy a better boy.

LT: And so what kinds of activities did you have in and outside camp to help prepare your boys?

KY: Okay, we were able to study the various sagebrush, and the plants that grew around that. Then study the earth, what's made up of the earth, the rocks, and things like this. Also fishing for entertainment.

LT: Well, you said that you were the only group that was allowed to go outside the barbed wire. Did guards follow you?

KY: No, no, nobody followed us. That much trust the administration had in the Boy Scouts. So that speaks well for Boy Scouts, the repetition of the Boy Scouts really must touch the administration.

LT: What were the favorite kinds of outings that your boys had?

KY: You know, I think they... anything we did, because they were able to get out and explore their surroundings, study the plants, the flowers, everything. The rocks, the soil, as nature, they were able to understand what really nature is, how much we rely on nature. Basically you take nature as granted, we do. But it doesn't. It teaches you a lot of things that you would never knew before.

LT: Thank you.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LT: Well, you lived at Minidoka for five or six months, and in Fife, you had, you were a member of a class where it was half Japanese American and half white Americans. Now in camp, you were living with all Japanese Americans. What was it like to be in an all Nikkei community?

KY: You know, I never thought of it that way. Like I explained before, our parents taught us to respect the law. And we felt that the government was doing the right thing, and it never did bother me that way. It may have influenced someone else, but not to me. I thought that this will end, the war will end, and things will go back to normal. In the meantime, in December of '43, they asked for volunteers, and I was one of the first ones to volunteer with my friend George Komoto and his mother and father didn't like me because I influenced their oldest son to volunteer.

LT: And this was for the draft?

KY: Yeah. After the war was over they apologized to me, but at that time, I know they were, they didn't like me for that.

LT: Well, the government was incarcerating you and your family behind barbed wire, and they were also asking you to participate in a draft in the military to support our country. Why did you decide to do that?

KY: Because I wanted to volunteer to serve our nation (to) protect it from foreign countries or our enemies, and that I could, I'll be just as good soldier as the next guy, no better, no worse, but the same.

LT: You mentioned that George's family was not keen on George participating. How did your family feel?

KY: My family didn't say a thing. My brothers and sisters, they were in favor of me doing this, because I told my brothers, "You'll be next to get drafted," and I was right because they were, after about six months, they were drafted. Then when I was in, my father didn't say a thing when I volunteered. But when I was in France, he wrote me a letter, and he congratulated me for being in service, and to protect it from your enemies. He says, "You did the right thing."

LT: How many brothers, how many sons all together from your family were serving in the military?

KY: There were five boys. Four of us were in service. The oldest wasn't because he was farming, and actually he was important to farm to feed us, because we needed the farmers. But four of us were in the army.

LT: You were inducted in March 1943. What do you remember about basic training?

KY: That was tough. You know, as good shape I was in, I think it was the climate. Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the climate was real bad. It's hot and muggy, and our drill sergeant was Jim Onchi. Jim was in the army before, way before. And he served as cadre for 442nd, and he was the guy that drilled us though our basic training. Basic training was about two months. He was our drill sergeant, went through all the exercises and everything.

LT: What was the toughest part of basic training?

KY: You know, basic training is to condition the men to be good fighters physically and mentally. That was the idea of basic training, 'cause you're from civilian life, now you're in the army. So it's two different worlds. It's altogether different from the civilian life. It's all discipline and training. So it's different.

LT: What about those hikes?

KY: Huh?

LT: What about those hikes?

KY: Oh, you know, five mile hike isn't bad, ten miles isn't bad, fifteen miles isn't bad, but twenty-five miles, that was tough. I weighed a hundred and twelve pounds, the pack weighs sixty pounds, and that was pretty hard. Sometimes I could hardly make it, but we had to.

LT: So how did you serve our country in the army?

KY: What?

LT: How did you serve our country in the army? What regiment were you in and where did you go?

KY: No, no, I took all my training in Company C, Charlie Company I was assigned to. And just before we... then when they asked for more men... I want to go back a little bit. We trained for one whole year, went on two twenty-five mile hikes, two maneuvers, and there wasn't a commander in Germany, Eisenhower didn't want us, and that's the reason why we trained as hard as we did. Government didn't know this, but they were doing us a favor. The reason why we were so successful in the war is because our training, instead of being only a couple months, (...) one whole year. That made us better soldiers. And I think I have to attribute our success to our extra training, and that's what I believe, and I asked them, we have a general here, General Thayer, I asked him about that, he said, "You're right. The extra training you guys got made you a better soldier."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LT: You trained all year in 1943 and you left for Europe in April 1944.

KY: No, I want to go back again. Eisenhower didn't want us, and we waited and waited and waited. Finally, Mark Clark in Italy was running out of soldiers, so he gave us a chance to prove ourselves, because they didn't know, we had no history as soldiers. (So) they broke up the first battalion, and then (with the) 100th Battalion went to Africa first, and they did so well in Africa, Mark Clark asked our Defense Department to send all the guys you have, and our commander says, "This is all I have." And that's the reason why they increased the draft and the Japanese Americans, 'cause they wanted us to be a good fighting crew.

LT: You served in Italy and in France, and as you said, you were a member of Charlie Company.

KY: Yeah, about, just before... well, I'll go back. Just before we came overseas, I got transferred to an (combat engine co.), because they were running short on that.

LT: And what was the role of the engineering company, and what was your particular role?

KY: See, in my MR, when I was in high school, I learned how to weld. MR says I had welding training, and the engineers needed more welders. When I got there, they didn't need any more welders, they just needed bodies. [Laughs] So when I got there I didn't do one bit of welding.

LT: What did (combat) engineers do?

KY: Okay, the (combat) engineers was the, like a pioneer company. You laid mines, you disables lines. You built roads, you built bridges, yet as an infantryman. If you're asked, you had to fight. But the combination in Italy or France was real tough. When we first went to Italy, the mines, I had no problem with the mines. I'd just pick one up and disable it, threw it to the side. Pretty soon our guys were being blown up by grabbing the mines. So I got nervous about that, too many guys being blown up. So I took a cord, twenty-five foot cord, tied it around the mine, got twenty-five yards down wherever, or behind a tree, and pulled it to see if it was booby-trapped. Then they have a habit of putting the mines near a foxhole, so our guys were going into the foxhole to pull the mine, get blown up. So I never did that myself. I tied it and get back twenty-five yards and pulled it. I got to a point where I was real nervous and shaky tying the knots, because some of those mines, just a very few vibration, they would explode. So we had to be real careful when you tied the cord around the ring or wherever.

LT: I'm guessing that you know people who were injured or killed because of that?

KY: Oh, yeah. Just blown up.

LT: So when you're dealing with mines and your life is on the line, what is it like minute to minute to keep going? How do you keep going?

KY: You know, that's one thing I said to myself: "I'm going to make it." I may be hurt, but I'm going to make it. And I kept talking to myself, "You're going to make it." And of course, I was injured and all that, but still, I'm here. I have a lot of friends who didn't make it, and I really feel sorry for them. Not for him, but for (their) family.

LT: What was your role as an engineer at night?

KY: You know, at night, we had to use our bayonets and probe to see if there were any mines. And you have to keep probing. And sometimes you only make, in one hour you may only go ten yards, because there's too many mines.

LT: And your role was to make it safe for the troops afterward?

KY: Yeah. One of our job is to make it safe so the infantry could move out without getting blown up. And at night, we would take a white ribbon from the start, where we started, the whole field, so they could walk right through it. So wherever they saw this white ribbon, they knew it was safe to walk through. That was a scary job, but that was one thing we had to do.

LT: Do you remember how many mines you dealt with during your time there?

KY: Oh, hundreds, thousands. Lot of mines. We're known as sappers, mine sapper is the name that we acquired.

LT: What does that mean?

KY: I don't know what it means. Sapper, S-A-P-P-E-R. Sap. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LT: Well, the engineers were particularly important during the Battle of the Lost Battalion.

KY: Oh, yes.

LT: When the 100th and 442nd was sent to France, first of all, can you tell us about the Lost Battalion, where they were and what had happened to them, and then talk about your role.

KY: The Lost Battalion was up in the hill, and the Germans surrounded this hill so they couldn't escape. The day before we went up to the, to get the Lost Battalion, we were on the line for over a month. We were tired, dirty and hungry. So we finally got (a rest), took a shower, got new clothes, new shoes, and had a hot meal. No sooner we got through, we got orders to hit the line again for the Lost Battalion. General Dahlquist had three regiments to do this job. He sent two regiments and they couldn't do a thing, so they finally asked us to do it. So we had to hit the line that very night, and we got all cleaned up and issued new clothes and (shoes). Then when we got to the Lost Battalion in the hill, the roads were real muddy, and then our trucks would sink, and the jeeps would sink, they couldn't go. So we got lumber and put lumber, three or four different layers on the tracks, and that was an all-day job. That was a continuing job, we had to keep on doing this.

Then at night, the Germans would mine, they'll sneak in and put some mines in this place, so guys were getting blown up with that, so we got that to contend with also. It was a mess. On that last battalion, they're on this hill, and I was on the bottom of the hill, about halfway through, one of the lieutenants hit an s-mine. S-mine has a tail, it makes a snapping noise. So he leaped to cover it, but the s-mine went up in the air before he could cover it. He got killed. Some of the guys behind him got hurt, and I was at the bottom of the hill so I never got hurt.

And I kept climbing and climbing, and finally got to this Lost Battalion on this hill. I was not in the first wave that went around. The guys in the first wave, after they got there, they had to secure the area. I was in the second round, I got in there, and those guys were happy as heck to see us. They hugged me and everything. And one guy handed me a sack full of cigarettes, and I don't smoke. Seven packs of cigarettes. [Laughs] So I took it back and gave it to the guys who smoked. The reason why I hadn't smoked, I mean, about a month before that, we were holed down in a foxhole for four hours, and Larry and I was in there. Larry was smoking one after another. I said, "Larry, you're making me nervous. Give me one of those damn things." He lit it up and gave it to me, I took a deep drag, everything started spinning. I said, if this is what cigarettes will do to you, I don't want nothing to do with that. That was my first and last cigarette. True story.

LT: So how did the Lost Battalion get access to all the cigarettes and other goods?

KY: Okay. (By air drops), we put 'em in our 155 cannons, 4.2 mortars, put it in this and blew, I mean, lobbed them into (their position). They had more food and more cigarettes than we ever had. No, we had ways to do that.

LT: So how many men were in the Lost Battalion?

KY: Two hundred and seventy-six. And our casualty was over eight hundred. It was real bad. Yeah, our casualty was much heavier than what we saved, two hundred and seventy-six (GIs).

LT: What is it like to risk your lives to be the third regiment to take on a task that seemed insurmountable, and then to succeed and to find survivors and to be able to rescue soldiers?

KY: I think I'm going to have to go back to our training. I think that made us better soldiers. And not only that, being all Niseis, you know, we don't give up. We never took trip back, we always went forward, never back, never retreated. Just like in the Battle of the Bulge, we were at the beginning, you heard of the Battle of the Bulge? And we were just replaced by three regiments, 101st, 102nd, the 103rd. See, the Germans were hitting to see where the weak spot is, they couldn't break us. But when we left, they broke that line. The 102nd, 101st, they got broke through. (...) There's a couple of guys who live here who were in the Battle of the Bulge.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

LT: Well, after your success in France, the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team was sent to Italy.

KY: Yeah.

LT: And you fought the Gothic Line. What was the Gothic Line and why was it important?

KY: Okay. The Gothic Line is the Po River. Arno River, then next is the Po River. And Mark Clark sent in (forty) thousand men to see if he could crush the Gothic Line. Hitler sent his best troops down to Po River because he didn't want them to break the Gothic Line, because that was a real strategic line. Because if we broke that line, it's a straight run through Italy. And that's when they called us back from France to Italy to see if we could break the Gothic Line. Day before we broke the Gothic Line, we climbed a three thousand foot cliff on the, that'd be the west bank of the German line, and Germans never thought anybody could break, I mean, climb that hill. So they didn't send any troops to protect that cliff, but we fooled them. They climbed that hill. Now, before I get to that, that morning, we were in a firefight to clean out the Germans. And I was down to see what I need to (...) build this bridge across the river. And apparently that was the time that I got shot. I didn't know I was shot until I was going, I went back to get the rest of the guys, blood was coming down my arm so then they knew I was shot. So the aid man looked at that, he wrapped it up and sent me to the field hospital. There were seven of us at the field hospital, three Germans, four Americans in this field hospital. I was right in between two Germans. At first I felt, god, this is kind of a weird feeling. But I said to myself, hey, they're only humans. They're no different than I am. So then I got at ease.

Then that evening, they put me on an ambulance and took me down to Naples for the general hospital. Then when I... I was there for thirty-two days, and I got back to the company. And when I got back to the company, we got, soon as I got back that same day, we got word there were twenty-five thousand Germans in the pocket, they won't give up. So they asked us to get 'em out of there. So we got all the firepower we could get, tanks, artillery, everything, And I drove the jeep down this road, and I hadn't gone four miles, and white flag. Germans gave up. The reason why they gave up, the young German soldiers shot their own sergeants and lieutenants so they could give up. Because the sergeants and the lieutenants, they didn't want to give up. And soon as we did that, the war ended.

LT: You faced so much adversity as a...

KY: Oh, that's why I didn't climb this hill, I was in the hospital. My kid brother did. He climbed up that hill.

LT: Because you were in the field hospital. What exactly is a field hospital?

KY: Oh, field hospital is a big white tent. And they had quite a few of those, and that particular tent I was in there was seven of us. It's just the receiving center to send down to the hospital in Naples.

LT: So I need to ask a question, because your goal on the field is to kill the Germans with your guns, and if you don't kill them and they're injured, you bring them back to the field hospital and you help them to heal?

KY: See, that's the difference between the Americans and the Germans. Germans wouldn't do that. I think they'd probably shot us instead of taking time to treat you. But we, once you're wounded, you're a human being. You're not a fighter anymore. So our, the philosophy of the Americans was a little different than the Germans, a lot different.

LT: So you were surrounded by German soldiers in the field hospital. Well, during the war in Europe, you also saw a lot of injured and a lot of deceased soldiers. I understand that you once saw a former classmate?

KY: Huh?

LT: I understand that you once saw a former classmate? I understand that you once saw a former classmate in the field?

KY: Oh, yeah. He was shot just before this Lost Battalion thing. I felt real bad about that, real bad. We played football together and everything. So that really, that really touched me.

LT: I can imagine. It has to be so difficult to lose members of your squad and battalion and friends.

KY: Being a classmate's even more than a member of your own squad. He was in a different squad, I mean, different company, but still, being a classmate in high school, it's a different feeling altogether.

LT: So what keeps you going as a soldier?

KY: You know, that's a difficult question to ask. Because what kept us going is to get the best of our enemy, to protect the United States of America against our enemy, and that you're a part of it. And that's your goal, to protect the USA against our enemy. And the way it turned out, Germans today are one of our best friends, Japan is one of our best friends. Hey, that tells you something, doesn't it? [Laughs]

LT: Did it ever occur to you and others in your battalion that while you were fighting the enemy, your family was also behind barbed wire and you were, your family was being discriminated against?

KY: No. As soon as I volunteered, my family was able to leave, so they went all over the country. I didn't tell you this Gothic Line was crushed by four thousand men, thirty-two minutes, where forty thousand men couldn't crush it in six months. That also tells you something. Whoever thought of that had a brilliant mind. And I think it was our Lieutenant Kim, who was our observation officer, I think he climbed that hill the day before to see if it (can be) done.


LT: This is part three of our interview with Dr. Kenji Yaguchi on April 2, 2014, sorry. [Laughs] So while you were in Europe, were you able to send letters to your family?

KY: Yes, but not... I didn't have that much time to write letters. I probably wrote, I wrote a half a dozen letters was all I sent. And we used that... what is that kind of... s-mail or whatever you call it? Yeah, like email, except with paper.

LT: What kinds of things did you tell your family about what you were doing?

KY: No, I didn't. You can't write anything about what you're doing. Because every letter you wrote was censored. They would black out the places they don't want your family to hear. That's the reason why I didn't write too many. Because they get an s-mail, over half was crossed out.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

LT: So after the war, what did you do, where did you go?

KY: I went back to Tacoma.

LT: Okay, actually, I'm going to stop there, because I think... let me ask this again. After the war, there was a parade in New York to honor the 100th/442nd Battalion. Did you participate?

KY: No. I was supposed to come home, but Switzerland gave us R&R. They put us in the best hotel and fed us the best food they had, and we went clean around Switzerland. I said to myself, I could have gone home, but I also wanted to see Switzerland. So I chose to stay so I could go to Switzerland. That's why I didn't come home 'til November. Then I've been back to Switzerland five times after that. [Laughs] Who never knows?

LT: And why would Switzerland want to do this?

KY: What?

LT: Why would Switzerland want to do this?

KY: Because during the war, we gave Switzerland food and coal, a lot of it. And the Swiss government didn't have any money to repay us, so they gave us R&R to repay us.

LT: So in November of 1945, you went home.

KY: Yeah. I went back home, and December, I met my wife at the USO in Seattle. Then she went to school, to Vogue's designing school in Chicago for three years and got a degree in sewing and tailoring. Then we were married in 1948.

LT: And where did you and your wife decide to live?

KY: Well, I graduated in 1950.

LT: And where did you graduate from?

KY: University of Western States. And I decided to go to Ontario because of the recreation, hunting, fishing. I loved to hunt and fish. You could see that. [Laughs] So my family asked me, "How come you're going to go way up to Ontario?" That's what I told them, and I wasn't sorry. I just enjoyed Ontario.

LT: You graduated from University of Western States, what were you studying? What was your aspiration?

KY: What?

LT: What were you studying at school? What was your professional plan?

KY: Our study was pre-med, all pre-med stuff. And my plan was to practice someplace after I got through, and, of course, I chose Ontario.

LT: And your plan was to become a chiropractor?

KY: Yeah, yeah.

LT: So after you married in 1948, you and Kaz moved to Ontario, and you began your practice.

KY: Yeah.

LT: You also raised a family.

KY: Yeah. We had two girls and two boys. Our youngest son came home from spring break to go skiing, he was involved in an auto accident, so he was killed in an auto accident in 1974.

LT: I'm sorry. And you practiced in Ontario for thirty-seven years.

KY: Yeah, thirty-seven years.

LT: While you did so, you also continued your schooling.

KY: What?

LT: You also continued your schooling?

KY: Oh, yes. I taught at University of Western States for twenty years after that.

LT: And you also went to school in Boise?

KY: Yes, I went for four years and got a degree in orthopedics.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

LT: Dr. Yaguchi, while you practiced as a chiropractor in Ontario for thirty-seven years, you were also very involved in your community. How were you involved?

KY: I was on the City Planning Commission for twenty years.


KY: Then I was with the Boy Scouts for almost thirty years, not quite. I was awarded the Silver Beaver award, then I was a member of the Board of Governors of the community college, I was chairman of that twice. Going back... did I say anything about the Silver Beaver award? Yes, okay. Then the Chamber of Commerce, I was active and I was chosen as a Senior Citizens award. Let's see... so many awards I can't even think of it. [Laughs]

LT: You were in involved in judo?

KY: Oh, yes. I was in judo for seventeen years. I took the team all over the Northwest, Spokane, Yakima, Portland, Seattle. But when I was in Ontario, I also became certified lay speaker of the Methodist church. Did I say that before?

LT: You were involved with the football team at Treasure Valley?

KY: Yes, I was the team doctor for, gee, I don't know how many years. A good many years.

LT: You also served on the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners?

KY: Yes, two terms.

LT: And you were involved in the Shriners?

KY: Yes, I was a Shriner fifty-seven years, good many years.

LT: You know, I'm thinking, when you were a kid growing up, you worked on the farm, you worked at home, you participated in judo and Boy Scouts, you were involved in football, track, wrestling, and you also were the valedictorian of your class. So you were multitasking at that time. You seemed to do the same as an adult in your community. How were you so successful in doing all those things?

KY: I think I kind of took after my father; he was like that, too. I must have inherited his genes or something, because I was always interested in the community, to help it, develop it to be a better community, no matter what capacity I was serving in. And that's how my father was, and I'm the only one in the family that way. My other brothers and sisters, no.

LT: Well, it's a wonderful drive.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

LT: Let's reflect on your life. First of all, what are your thoughts about Japanese American civil rights, especially the redress from the Executive Order 9066?

KY: That was long overdue. But I... and I kind of think, in going back to Eleanor Roosevelt, I think she influenced a lot of people, and she talked to some real important people. And if she had her way, we would have never been in concentration camps, that's what I think. I don't know what your thoughts on that are.

LT: You mentioned that during the time, you felt that it was important for the country and you were following the laws of the country. How did your views change?

KY: Basically hasn't changed any. But I kind of think that we as Americans has an option, everyone has an option, good or bad. And I have to choose the good side, not the bad side.

LT: You're a Japanese American. How did the war affect how you feel about being a Japanese American?

KY: You know, I don't feel any different than anybody else, I really don't. Because of my upbringing and everything, I think the things that happened in the past are just history. If you do all the negative thoughts, then you'll go downhill. You've got to think of positive, up, always up.

LT: How do you think the war affected your parents?

KY: I think my father was resolved to the fact that I was doing the thing that I thought was right. He never criticized us, in his letters to me during the war, he apologized if he had left any images, negative thoughts. I don't think he did, but this is just history, good or bad. I just happened to choose a good one. I don't want to think negative.

LT: You have children and grandchildren.

KY: Yeah, great grandchildren.

LT: And great grandchildren.

KY: Just recently.

LT: Congratulations. What have you told at least your children and grandchildren about the war and your experiences?

KY: I haven't. This will help. They kept after me to write. I started, I got about five pages. [Laughs] This will substitute, this will help. If I will leave anything, this is going to be the thing, my legacy.

LT: I'm wondering, because there are a number of Nisei, who, like you, don't always talk to children and grandchildren about their experiences. I wonder why?

KY: I don't know. Number one, my kids never asked me. All they, like I said, all they wanted me to write, put it in black and white for prosperity.

LT: Is there a number two?

KY: Huh?

LT: Is there a number two?

KY: Yeah. No, never number two, number one.

LT: So there are young people who don't know about what happened to Japanese Americans and about your life. What lessons should we learn from your experiences?

KY: You know, when I was in the American Legion in Beaverton, we used to go to about eleven high schools, and these are some of the things I used to cover with them. And you'd be surprised the letters I got from the students, especially, not from the boys, but from the girls. They finally found out what was happening to us, and they appreciated the fact that I came, told them straight up what really happened.

LT: What did they say?

KY: Number one, they thanked me for telling them what happened, and things they never heard of. And they appreciated the fact that I was able to tell them these things. Most of them, that's what most of them... I've got forty, fifty letters someplace.

LT: If there was one lesson that we should learn from your life and from what happened to Japanese Americans, what would that be?

KY: Never give up. Never give up. Always think positive; never negative.

LT: My last question. What's important in life?

KY: What's important? The most important in my aspect is to get along with your fellow men. Never treat them bad, always treat them good. And I think that goes a long ways. We're only humans; we all have one brain, and let that brain work for you, not against you.

LT: Dr. Yaguchi, thank you very much.

KY: [Laughs] Well, that was quite an experience.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.