Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yoshimitsu Suyematsu Interview
Narrator: Yoshimitsu Suyematsu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: April 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-syoshimitsu-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is April 22, 2014, and we're in Ontario, Oregon, and we're interviewing Yosh Suyematsu. So, Yosh, the first question is, can you tell me when and where you were born?

YS: Bainbridge Island, Rolling Bay. Well, we lived in Rolling Bay.

TI: So where is Rolling Bay?

YS: It's a little kind of city on the island. There's Rolling Bay, another one's Fletcher Bay, you know, Manzanita, all kinds of different places.

TI: Okay. So that was like a little, was it like a little town?

YS: Yeah, little town, or not even a town, just a store maybe.

TI: And when you say you were born in Rolling Bay, were you born at your house, or was there a place that you went to or your mother went to?

YS: Well, I guess there was a Dr. Shepherd who was the doctor, but I don't know where I was born.

TI: And then what day were you born? What was the date of your birth?

YS: 27th. I mean, the 30th day of '27 year.

TI: Okay, so May 30, 1927.

YS: '27.

TI: Okay, so that makes you eighty-six years old?

YS: Yeah, next month, eighty-seven.

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

YS: Yoshimitsu.

TI: And was there any significance to that name? Were you named after anyone?

YS: No, I don't think so.

TI: Good. And how about your siblings, brothers and sisters? How many brothers and sisters did you have?

YS: I had four brothers and two sisters.

TI: So can you walk down the...

YS: Well, the oldest one was, sister was Kimiko, and the oldest brother was Akio, Isamu, Toshio, me and then Eiko, then the youngest one was Yasuo. He passed away before the war.

TI: And how did Yasuo pass away? What happened to him?

YS: Well, they think it was a ruptured appendix, but they never did know because they never did autopsy or nothing. He died in '39.

TI: So then growing up, there were six of you.

YS: Yeah, six. Four boys and two girls.

TI: And how about your father? What was your father's name?

YS: Yasuji.

TI: And where in Japan did he grow up?

YS: Kumamoto.

TI: And do you know the town or the...

YS: Well, when I was there, I went there, but I met my mother's children, I guess, my mother's sister's children, I mean.

TI: So your cousins.

YS: Yeah, we would have been cousins.

TI: So why did your father come to America?

YS: My father's name is really not Suyematsu, it's Wakasugi, but two brothers came over together. And Wakasugithat lives here now, but there's only one left.

TI: So when he came over, he was a Wakasugi?

YS: Yeah. Well, see, in Japan, I guess, I don't know why he took the name Suyematsu. When I went there I tried to find out but I couldn't find out nothing. His name is...

TI: Wakasugi.

YS: Wakasugi, whatever it is.

TI: So why do you think? Do you have a theory?

YS: Well, before, in Japan, if they didn't have nobody to carry on their name, then they did that I think. I think that's what the reason was, but I really don't know. They don't really say, you know. But then when I was there, I tried to see, but nobody knew.

TI: Did he change his name in Japan or in America?

YS: I don't know.

TI: Yeah, so it's kind of interesting to do research. It'd be hard, because you're looking for Suyematsu, but it's Wakasugi.

YS: Then, like I say, there's hardly any Suyematsu. [Laughs]

TI: And when he came to America, where did he go?

YS: Where did he what?

TI: So where did he go to live in America?

YS: I think he used to work in a restaurant, I think, in Seattle. Then they moved to Bainbridge Island.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

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

YS: I really don't know. They never did say.

TI: Did they come to Seattle together?

YS: I guess, I really don't know that.

TI: And then they went to Bainbridge Island?

YS: Yeah, then they went to Bainbridge Island. Quite a few of 'em. Because when we evacuated, there was probably two hundred-some people from Bainbridge Island.

TI: So your dad went from working in a restaurant in Seattle.

YS: Yeah, Seattle, he worked in a restaurant, I think, for a while.

TI: And then what did he do in Bainbridge Island?

YS: He farmed.

TI: And what kind of farming?

YS: Strawberry.

TI: Now, so, was that a big farm? I hear stories about the Suyematsu strawberry farm.

YS: Yeah, it's quite a deal. My brother, he did a lot for them, and he donated some around there, so the only farm and only. It was purchased by the city of Winslow, but he got an agreement with them that as long as he was alive, I guess, they have to farm it, or rent it out to somebody to farm it. That's what they were doing. But even right now, see, they're trying to make it a, what you call it? Place to remember and stuff. Because that old house we used to live in, people are living in there now, just the one that's staying there, working there, and they're living there now. It's quite a deal.

TI: So when you were born, how much property did...

YS: We had forty, they purchased forty acres.

TI: Forty acres. And then did they grow that larger or did it get bigger, or was that always forty acres?

YS: No, because we had to clear it from scratch, you know, with dynamite and everything. They had to clear it, you know, a little bit, acre at a time or whatever. Well, then on the island at that time, too, they got, they kind of got together and some of 'em worked together and helped each other.

TI: To, like, get the stumps out and things that?

YS: Yeah, yeah, and they kind of helped each other get started, I guess, is what their deal was. Because we used to have some younger Niseis help, too, couple of 'em. I guess that's the way they wanted to get started, I guess. And he was lucky, too, that when he went back, he got it back.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Okay, we'll get to that later, but I'm curious, so when you have a strawberry farm, tell me what kind of chores you had to do for a strawberry farm.

YS: Well, see, when they cleared it and then they went, go to plant it, all the Japanese come out there and they work together, see. So you kind of, when, the ground, you mark it out and you mark it sideways, and then the older guys come with, well, we call it pipi, they pipi it and then they plant strawberries. The ladies, they'd go along to each hole and put the plant in, and then the younger ones put the, what they call nye...

TI: The fertilizer?

YS: Yeah, we put fertilizer. But they put the nye, the strawberry plant out, and then each lady puts 'em in the hole with a wooden thing, they plant it so far apart. But you go ahead and mark those all out. And then, like I said, the person come along with a pipi, and that mark, and they put a hole there. Then they put the, younger guys put the plants out way ahead of time. Then the ladies come along and put 'em in the hole and push the dirt and plant it.

TI: And how many people would be working together?

YS: Oh, probably... twenty or thirty people, probably.

TI: So whenever a farmer was planting, everyone would just come to help?

YS: Yeah. They'd tell you they're gonna plant such and such a day, and most of 'em that's free go and helps them. That's the way they got started, I guess, was the idea. Because I know, we were younger, we put the plants out or whatever you do. If you're older you go along with the marker and mark that. Because the owner usually goes and marks it down the row, they you come along with a site marker and mark it, and then like I say, the person comes along with pipis and they punch holes. But that's the way they started.

TI: And how long would that take?

YS: Oh, probably go for the day. Usually, sometimes if there's more, I guess they go a little longer. But usually it's for the day.

TI: And so twenty people, how much could they plant?

YS: Oh, probably... they plant quite a bit.

TI: Like over an acre?

YS: Oh, yeah. Because there are probably twenty, thirty people. I imagine there was twenty or thirty, I think.

TI: And then at the end of the day, what would happen?

YS: Well, that's what I mean. You feed 'em at noontime, and then I forget if every evening you feed 'em again or what. That was their way of thanking you, I guess, is to feed 'em.

TI: Now on Bainbridge Island there was also a Filipino community that were, like, workers. Were they part of this also, or was it just Japanese?

YS: No, mostly Japanese. The Filipinos worked for the Japanese.

TI: That's interesting. No one's described this to me. This is interesting how they did it. Now, a strawberry plant, how long would a strawberry plant last?

YS: Oh, probably three years or maybe four, sometimes four years. Just depends on how good it is. But it's mostly about three years. I think your second year is usually the best.

TI: Okay. So it sounds like, so you're constantly... so first you have to clear the land and then you have to prepare the land, then you plant. You have then a couple years, two or three years, and then you have to kind of re-plow.

YS: Yeah, got to work and do something else with it. We had vine berries, too, and peas, we used to raise peas.

TI: So would they have to rotate the crops?

YS: Yeah, yeah, they kind of rotated the crops.

TI: And then for the harvest time, with all the strawberries, what would happen?

YS: They'd get Indians from Canada and bring 'em in. Well, that's quite a deal, too.

TI: Now why would they go all the way to Canada?

YS: Well, that's the only place they could get 'em, I guess.

TI: Now how about, so when I was a kid in Seattle, in the summertime, they would have buses that would come into the city and pick up all the kids, and then we'd go strawberry picking and we'd pick all day.

YS: Auburn or something like that?

TI: Yeah, up, like, Fall City.

YS: Yeah, Fall City or Kent.

TI: So that was common. I think some people went to Bainbridge Island, too.

YS: Yeah, I imagine they did. But that's what we used to use, mostly Indians and Filipinos. But that's quite a deal because you have to get 'em, ship 'em money, and if they don't come, you lose out.

TI: And then when you pick the berries, where did the berries go?

YS: We usually took 'em to cannery in Winslow, and they run it. Then some of it, if it goes to market, it used to go on a scow, you know, you just slide it down on a scow and the tugboat would take 'em. Because there was no vehicle for those ferries back them days. It was just a passenger boat.

TI: Oh, I didn't know that. So no cars.

YS: No cars 'til I forget what year it was, then we got ferries. Then after that, you could haul your berries to Seattle. But up to there, it was all, like I say, scows.

TI: And they would, like, go to Seattle to the farmer's market?

YS: Yeah, yeah, something like that.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Earlier you mentioned your house on Bainbridge Island. Can you describe that house for me? What was the house like?

YS: Oh, we had an upstairs and downstairs, it's one open, just upstairs all open. Bottom had a few rooms, the folks lived in the bottom, but we used to live upstairs. It was just a, kind of open house.

TI: When you say open house, so upstairs meaning just like one big...

YS: One room, yeah. And so many beds. Downstairs was one room, kitchen and a living room.

TI: And you said the house is still there?

YS: Yeah, it's still there.

TI: Does it look pretty much the same?

YS: Yeah. Well, see, my brother added a room when they went back after the war. And that's still there. They added one room and made it bigger.

TI: And how about things like plumbing? When you were growing up, did you have indoor plumbing?

YS: It was, yeah, it was all outdoor. It was just a well and a pump, and then I don't what year it was they got running water. But up to there it was just always pump, just everything we did was pump, and then carried water in the house. And then same with the bath, of course, we had to pump the water for the bath.

TI: Now you mentioned earlier that you were born in Rolling Bay, but the house was in Winslow? Where's the house?

YS: No, the house was in Rolling Bay. Right now there's a school there now where we were born, but we moved just a half a mile down the road. That's where they built the house.

TI: I forgot to ask, what was your mother's name?

YS: Mitsuo.

TI: And her maiden name, her last name before she married? Oh, that's okay if you can't remember.

YS: Just like Mitsuo, too, that's a boy's name, but that's her name. That was her name.

TI: And it sounds like she and your father grew up in, like in the same place in Japan?

YS: I think so.

TI: Same area?

YS: I think so.

TI: So tell me a little bit about your school on Bainbridge Island. What school did you go to?

YS: Well, we just catch a bus and go to Winslow. They called it Lincoln school, I think it was, yeah, Lincoln school.

TI: Okay. And Lincoln school, how many Japanese were... like in a class, how big was your class?

YS: Oh, there wasn't too many in that thing, but then probably two or three, some more.

TI: So two or three out of maybe twenty students or so?

YS: You mean Japanese?

TI: Yeah.

YS: Yeah, two or three, sometimes more. It just depends on the year. And then there was a school in Pleasant Beach, too, so there was Japanese going over there, too, and then Eagledale they had a school, too.

TI: But you mentioned earlier when the war started, there were, like, a couple hundred Japanese on Bainbridge Island?

YS: Yeah.

TI: So were there ever any community events where the Japanese got together?

YS: Oh, yeah. We had picnic and stuff, yearly picnic. All the Japanese, Filipinos would come, too. They always had a yearly picnic, but I don't know, I forget what year that started. They used to have it.

TI: And was there a special occasion? Was it like the Fourth of July?

YS: Yeah, it was after the berry season. I forget whether it was a special day or not.

TI: So kind of like in, later in July?

YS: Yeah, it was later, after the berries are done, they have a picnic. Yeah, everybody used to, it used to be quite a deal.

TI: So describe that for me. What was the picnic like? What did people bring for food?

YS: Well, you know what Japanese would bring.

TI: So things like rice balls, onigiri?

YS: Yeah, yeah. And then I think they gave... I think they gave us ice cream or something, I forget now. Yeah, it used to be quite a deal.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Now was strawberry farming pretty lucrative? I mean, were people pretty prosperous because of strawberries?

YS: Well, depends on the year. That one year there was really good. And it wasn't really what you call high, but it was a couple times there pretty good. That's the time, of course, you get to buy something then, so they went to buy a car or something.

TI: Did the strawberry farmers form like a cooperative or anything to sell the berries, or was that controlled by the canneries, or how did that work?

YS: Yeah, that was lot of it, controlled by, you just take it to the cannery. But then we used to sell some on the market, too, people come.

TI: So how would you know, how would your family know that you were getting a fair price from the cannery? I mean, they kind of have like a monopoly, right?

YS: Yeah. No, I guess they must have talked it over and decided how much they wanted to charge, I think.

TI: But what's to prevent the cannery from just paying a really low price?

YS: Well, yeah. You just take it there and they give you a number and then they tell you so many on that number, you just leave it there. I forget how much they paid for it.

TI: Well, so the Japanese farmers must have trusted...

YS: Yeah, it was one cannery, and everybody goes there. That was cannery berries, too, so that's not stems, they're stemless.

TI: Right. Yeah, when I picked strawberries, the ones you kept the stems were what we called the market berries?

YS: Market the stems, leave the stems.

TI: Yeah, those were just the good ones, then we'd send them to market. I remember all that. Going back to the picnic, you talked about the food. Did they have things like games also?

YS: Yeah, they used to play games, I forget what it was now, whether we played baseball or whatever it was, but they used to have games, running and different things like that. It was running games and things like that.

TI: It sounds like a good time. And so after berry season, what would the family do? What would be next after you harvest the berries, you have the picnic, so what happens in August?

YS: Oh no, you work all the, work the berries all the time, weeding and setting runners or plant a new crop. See, you plant the new crop in... when was it? Toward fall I guess it was.

TI: But the hard part is you get one harvest, right? The strawberry season is just a few weeks.

YS: Probably two or three weeks, yeah.

TI: Two or three weeks, and that will make or break, I mean, that's all the money you get for the whole year, pretty much?

YS: Well, no, we used to have, like I say, peas, then he started growing vine berries.

TI: Okay, so vine berries meaning like raspberries?

YS: Yeah, raspberries or boysenberry.

TI: But strawberries was the main crop?

YS: Yeah, strawberry was the main crop.

TI: Okay. And for strawberry, was it pretty much Japanese or did the, like the whites or Caucasians, did they do strawberries, too?

YS: No.

TI: Now why was that? Why did the Japanese only do strawberries?

YS: I think because they must have started all over, I think, even in California I think they started strawberries.

TI: Yeah. No, I was wondering why it was always such a Japanese thing.

YS: I don't know. [Laughs]

TI: Because every, a lot of communities I go to, the Japanese did a lot of the strawberries.

YS: Yeah, strawberries, they did. You talk to people in California, they had strawberries, too. Well, I was reading in that Nisei book and stuff, but they said that's where a lot of it was started. But then a lot of them, they raised potatoes and other stuff too in California, but we never did. Well, that Queen of England says they want only Bainbridge Island strawberries.

TI: Yeah, so I was going to ask you, is there a particular climate or place that produces the best strawberries?

YS: Well, they like strawberry, Bainbridge Island, because it's rocky and then it's sweet, they say. Because if it's too hot, they get big and get ripe, but the Bainbridge, cool weather, they say that's why it gets bigger and juicy because of the rocks, they say. See, the island had a lot of rocks. There were a lot of rocks.

TI: So like in Ontario, did people do strawberries here?

YS: Well, they tried it.

TI: It wasn't as good?

YS: No, because it gets too hot. Like I say, it gets too hot, and it gets ripe before they get big, so they're small. And they weren't that good either, I didn't think. Because the Moris, they raised it here, few of them, Wakasugis raised it, too. But it didn't do that good.

TI: So some of the cooler climates like the Northwest...

YS: Yeah, and then they're sweeter, too.

TI: Yeah, I was curious.

YS: Even California berries, no comparison to the island or coast berries.

TI: They might be bigger and prettier...

YS: Yeah, they're pretty, but they're not juicy. Oh, yeah, I'd rather eat the coast berries anytime.

TI: Interesting.

YS: There's a lot of difference.

TI: Okay. I always wondered about that.

YS: Yeah, there's a lot of difference. Because we go to the store now, we don't buy it, hardly, unless we can look it over good and see if it's red inside. You know, most of the California berries, it's red outside, but inside...

TI: They're kind of whitish.

YS: White, yeah. They're not as sweet. But to get coast berries, even Portland, that way, their berries, it's sweeter.

TI: But you think Bainbridge Island might be the best?

YS: Oh, yeah. That's what the queen of England, she said.

TI: Well, that's interesting, because... well, because of housing price or land prices, most of the strawberry farms have all disappeared, you don't see them.

YS: Yeah.

TI: Vashon Island, Bellevue, Bainbridge Island, you just don't see the strawberry farms.

YS: There are very few. Oh, my brother, his place still, they've still got strawberries. He had that girl work for him for thirty years, and she's there, she's still raising that.

TI: Still raising strawberries?

YS: Yeah. Rainiers, I think.

TI: So when they raise strawberries, Bainbridge Island, do they sell them just on Bainbridge Island, or do they ship 'em out?

YS: Yeah, they sell what they can and then ship 'em out. I take 'em to Pike Market.

TI: Because now Bainbridge Island was such a wealthy community, I'm guessing people will just buy fresh strawberries.

YS: Yeah, lots of people there now.

TI: Interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: We talked a little bit about school. Did you go to Japanese school when you were on Bainbridge Island?

YS: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So tell me about that. Where was that?

YS: Well, when I was in Winslow going to Japanese school, then walking distance to another Japanese place, they had a hall there and stuff, and used to be Japanese school after school. And later on, we went on Saturdays.

TI: So both after school and Saturdays?

YS: No, after, quit the after-school, and then went Saturdays, oh, so many hours a day, Saturdays.

TI: And how old were you when you started Japanese school?

YS: I don't know what grade it was, third, fourth grade, I imagine.

TI: And how many years did you go?

YS: I went there... I went, but then we didn't really study, settle down, you know. We fooled around too much. We were kids, I guess, so we fooled around.

TI: Well, it was kind of hard, because you had to go to regular school.

YS: Yeah, then after I had to go to Japanese school.

TI: And then later on the weekends you had to give up your Saturday or something.

YS: So we went 'til I was evacuated.

TI: And who taught the Japanese?

YS: That one lady, Ohtaki, well that one that, Paul Ohtaki, his mother?

TI: Oh, right.

YS: She taught four or five grades. Only one teacher for all the grades.

TI: But even though you fooled around, did you learn Japanese?

YS: Well, yeah, we learned together. [Laughs] Well, then the folks talked, too.

TI: And how about things like sports? Did you do quite a bit of sports on Bainbridge Island?

YS: Yeah, we were there... see, my dad and them, they wouldn't let the people play football. We got to play baseball, basketball, but they couldn't play football.

TI: Why is that?

YS: Well, they just figured you'd get hurt.

TI: Oh, like you're too small?

YS: Yeah, you know, you're pretty small, then they figured you'd get hurt. So I know my brother, he wanted to play, but he couldn't. My dad said no football. He could play baseball or basketball, but no football. Some of them played, but then our family, they wouldn't, he wouldn't let 'em play.

TI: Yeah, my mom was the same way, she didn't want me to play football, but I played in high school until I got hurt, and then she said, "I told you so." [Laughs] That was funny.

YS: Yeah, because they don't have the equipment like they do nowadays.

TI: Yeah, but you're so much smaller. I mean, when you're going against people who are over two hundred pounds.

YS: But you never had no...

TI: Oh, the facemasks.

YS: ...facemasks, too. Because I know this one guy that's a Japanese kid on the island, he chased the guy and he tackled him, but that guy's foot came up and, you know...

TI: Just broke his teeth?

YS: Yeah, yeah, broke his thing.

TI: Or nose, you break your nose.

YS: Yeah, see, that's what happened just by accident.

TI: Yeah, no, that sounds dangerous.

YS: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So did you play basketball and baseball?

YS: Yeah, played basketball and baseball.

TI: And tell me about that. Was it like a, just a kind of neighborhood team, or did you play organized?

YS: No, you played other, like O'Dea and Poulsbo, like ours was Poulsbo and Silverdale. Not Bremerton, because Bremerton was bigger, but the smaller ones, smaller school they played. Like I say, Silverdale, Poulsbo.

TI: So this is like at the high school level, or is this junior high school?

YS: Yeah, it was more or less... well, see, I was in the eighth grade, and that was high school already. But usually eighth grade, you don't play in the...

TI: The varsity?

YS: Varsity, yeah. You just your own, you don't go anyplace. You go, but then you're just one place maybe.

TI: And how about your older brothers, did they play?

YS: Yeah, he played baseball, then like the other one, he played basketball and stuff. They played Seattle schools, and like I say, Silverdale, Poulsbo, smaller schools.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: I mean, earlier we talked a little bit about the ferry that would go from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. Did you go to Seattle very often?

YS: No, we didn't. Like we used to say, we'd go once a year, right after strawberry season, and we got to go to a Chinese restaurant and stuff. Man, that would be a big deal. [Laughs]

TI: So this was kind of in that Chinatown/Japantown area?

YS: Yeah, because my dad used to take us to shop a little bit and go eat Chinese food, and we thought that was really...

TI: Do you remember which restaurant you went to?

YS: No.

TI: That'd be fun.

YS: Oh, yeah.

TI: And you mentioned earlier you knew the people from the Higo Five and Ten Cent store?

YS: Yeah, we used to go there quite a bit.

TI: Now, back then, where was the store located? Was it on Jackson?

YS: Yeah, on Jackson.

TI: The same place?

YS: Yeah, I think so now. That's the only place I know that were...

TI: Seems like they, I remember that they were someplace else and they moved there.

YS: They moved there? Yeah, could be. The only place I knew was right there on Jackson. Yeah, right on the main street there.

TI: Yeah, so it's right on Jackson.

YS: Yeah, right on Jackson.

TI: And eventually that family owned the whole building.

YS: Whole building, I think, yeah. They were doing good.

TI: And they were friends of your family?

YS: Yeah.

TI: So how did they know? Was it from Japan they knew each other, or how did they get to know them?

YS: I don't know how they got, but then, that's how I knew 'em, because she used to come out to the island and stay with us.

TI: And so this would be...

YS: Well, I don't know about the Mister, I never did see Mister, but the Missus.

TI: Mrs. Murakami?

YS: Yeah. She used to be sitting there all the time in the store.

TI: So did Seattle people come out to Bainbridge Island very frequently?

YS: No, not that much, them days. No, it was mostly island people would be island.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Now with your brothers or other siblings, what kind of things would you do when you didn't have chores or school? Did you have, like, adventures on the island, or did you do a lot of fishing?

YS: Yeah, yeah, we tried to do fishing. And then go to the beach, and we used to dig clams and crabs and stuff, they have geoducks. Yeah, that used to be good, geoducks.

TI: And so how would you dig geoducks back then?

YS: Just by hand. Two or three people dig, start digging like crazy, then they'd jump down and grab it.

TI: So how would you stop -- when you start digging, I've done geoduck, it just starts caving in.

YS: Yeah, it starts caving in, see.

TI: So we'd actually get a garbage can or something to help the stop the...

YS: We used to dig fast and then just when you're about to see the neck, you go down and grab it.

TI: Someone would hold it and the rest would keep digging?

YS: Yeah. So sometime it would be caving in, sometime you lose it.

TI: Yeah, geoduck was always harder.

YS: You did that?

TI: Yeah, I did geoduck when I was a kid, and I remember it just caving in. And that was different, because from like razor clam digging, it was easier because...

YS: Yeah, a lot easier.

TI: Because even though they would go down, it wouldn't cave in as much.

YS: Yeah. Because geoduck, you have to dig three or four feet.

TI: Yeah, you had to go really deep with geoduck.

YS: See, we used to take a wooden paddle and follow the neck down. That was against the law. [Laughs]

TI: So how would you do that? A wooden handle, you mean down the hole?

YS: Yeah, and the hole keeps going down, so then you could know where to dig.

TI: And that was against the law?

YS: That was against the law.

TI: Why was that?

YS: I don't know. You can't do that.

TI: But then that's how you can track where they're going.

YS: Yeah, track where they're going.

TI: That's interesting. I'll have to try that next time I dig geoduck. [Laughs]

YS: Pretty hard to find it now, though.

TI: And then crabbing, was it just like crab pots that you would do?

YS: Well, no, we used to go alongside the log and then kind of scratch it.

TI: Oh, so not even, so you would actually try to find them and then, but shallow water you would go...

YS: Later on they started walking in the water and see it. But them days, we used to just pole alongside of a log sometimes.

TI: And back then, did they have oysters at all?

YS: Yeah, we had oysters. Yeah, we used to get that, too.

TI: Yeah. No, I used to love all that.

YS: Oh yeah, they were good.

TI: And then just, yeah, salmon fishing in the Sound. Now, would you go out in boats, or would you do it from the shore?

YS: No, we didn't have a boat. Off the docks.

TI: Were you able to catch salmon off the docks?

YS: Yeah, sometimes.

TI: Or more just perch?

YS: Perch and rock cod and shiners. Them days, most of it was off the docks, because nobody had a boat.

TI: So that would be hard to catch salmon.

YS: Yeah, it was pretty hard to catch salmon. You see 'em there off the docks, but they won't bite.

TI: The other thing that my family does is the squidding, you jig for squid. Did you do that at all?

YS: No, I never did do that.

TI: They'd do it off the docks in Seattle.

YS: They do that now. They said, yeah, a lot of people do that, I guess. We never did do that, squid.

TI: How about things like mushroom picking? Did you ever do matsutake?

YS: No. There used to be, but then there wasn't any more.

TI: So Bainbridge Island didn't have...

YS: No, it was not quite high enough, I guess.

TI: Yeah, I was going to ask you if you had any secret spots on Bainbridge Island. [Laughs]

YS: Yeah.

TI: That's like one of the family secrets of the Northwest is where you go find your mushrooms, and good salmon fishing holes, too, where people like that. So I want to ask you just how, like, the race relationships between the Japanese and the Caucasians and the Filipinos, how did people get along with each other?

YS: It was pretty good, I thought. We found out different after the war started, but they, some of these people, they really call you "Jap" and everything else. But most of the time it was pretty good, I thought.

TI: So before the war you didn't really see any of that.

YS: No, not too much.

TI: It seemed like it was pretty good.

YS: But Filipino and us, yeah, we got along pretty good, too, really.

TI: Now on Bainbridge Island, was there any places where, like, the Japanese and Filipinos weren't welcome? Like in Seattle there would be, like at movie theaters, they couldn't go through the main entrance, or the swimming pool, the Crystal Pool, they couldn't swim there. So there were some places the Japanese couldn't go to. Was it similar like that in Bainbridge Island?

YS: I didn't think there was on Bainbridge Island too much of that.

TI: So it seemed like it was pretty good.

YS: It was pretty good, I thought. You know, going to school and stuff, they were pretty good, most of them. But like I say, after things, you found out what some of them were like.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so why don't we kind of go there. So December 7, 1941, do you remember that day?

YS: Yeah.

TI: And so how did you find out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

YS: By radio. See, that was... when we went back to school on Monday, we had to go to the auditorium, and then you listened to the radio.

TI: And did the principal go up there and say something or a teacher say something?

YS: I don't remember if they said anything or not. I think we listened to the radio and then that was about it, I thought. They probably did say something, but I don't really remember.

TI: Now how about your family on Sunday, December 7th? Did your family talk about what happened?

YS: Yeah, they were talking about... well, I think we were woodcutting. That's what we used to do all those Sundays, go out and cut our own wood. So I think we were woodcutting that day. I know... what day was it? When we'd come from school one day, my dad was gone.

TI: So the FBI --

YS: They were there when we come home, and then they, of course, then they say they're going to take him and my mom got real, you know, upset.

TI: So what was your father doing that made the FBI interested?

YS: Well, because we had dynamite and caps, because we'd blow up, cleared land, you know, you have dynamite and caps. That's the only thing they had against him, really. So they took him, but he came back in a few days.

TI: Now was your father involved in terms of like a leader of the community?

YS: No, he wasn't. Yeah, and some of those he took. He was never...

TI: But I would guess that many of the farmers had dynamite caps.

YS: Oh, yeah, lot of them had that. Lot of them had dynamite stuff. We had it in the house, caps in the house. So they come and, when they come and question you and everything, heck, what can you do?

TI: Yeah, so explain to me, so it's like you came home from school? Or when you said you came home and they were there already, so who was there? Like how many officials were there?

YS: Two, I think.

TI: And they were FBI?

YS: Yeah, FBI.

TI: And tell me what they were wearing and what they looked like.

YS: They're just regular.

TI: Were they wearing suits?

YS: No, I don't think they were. Just regular clothes. They say they're such and such.

TI: Did they have, like, sidearms, did they have guns or anything?

YS: They might have had. I don't really remember.

TI: And were they... what was their demeanor? I mean, how did they act toward your...

YS: Yeah, they were, the ones who came, ours wasn't bad, but I heard some of 'em were bad.

TI: Now were your parents able to speak English?

YS: Well, enough, I guess. I mean, they didn't know what was coming on.

TI: Were any of your older siblings there?

YS: No. My brother and them, they were playing, so I think, basketball and stuff. So my oldest brother and I, I remember, we walked in the house, and they were there.

TI: So was it Akio?

YS: Yeah. Him and I walked, we were walking from the bus, and then go to the house, and they were there.

TI: And so what were you thinking when you saw that?

YS: Yeah, we didn't know what to think. [Laughs] But we heard about it the rest of the time.

TI: And you mentioned your mother was pretty upset?

YS: Yeah, she was crying and everything when they took him. Because you don't know what they're going to do.

TI: And did they take him to Seattle?

YS: Yeah, they took him to Seattle or wherever they went. They don't say that, but then that's where they went, Seattle, anyhow. But like I say, he came back in a couple days.

TI: Did he talk about what happened when he was in Seattle?

YS: Yeah. I didn't hear what they'd done or nothing.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: And then you mentioned earlier that after the war started, you saw, some people changed?

YS: Oh, yeah.

TI: So tell me about that. Who are you talking about? What would be an example of that?

YS: Yeah, they just say, "Jap this," and "once a Jap," all that stuff. But you think, some of the people you thought were pretty good, but they're not.

TI: So are these, like, at school?

YS: Yeah, school. They wouldn't tell you in your face. Because most of the Japanese, I thought they were well-liked. Like I say, there's a few of them, there's always a few anyhow, some people.

TI: And how about the relationships between the Japanese and the Filipinos? How was that after the war started?

YS: That wasn't bad. They might have thing, but I didn't hear it.

TI: Because that's kind of interesting, because in other places like in California, boy, there were some really difficult times between the Japanese and Filipinos, where the Japanese would never go into the Filipino areas because they felt threatened. And so I was always curious about Bainbridge Island, because when I found out about Bainbridge Island, it seemed like the communities got along really well, which was not the usual case.

YS: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Why do you think that was, that they got along so well?

YS: I don't know. [Laughs] Because they used to work for us, too, weeding and stuff, and of course, we'd give 'em stuff also. But then, I mean, I don't know if that was, if that was it. They were pretty good, I thought.

TI: Now, so the Filipino community, was it similar to the Japanese where they had, like, the parents and they had children about your age, or what was the age?

YS: No, the Filipinos couldn't have Filipino wives. They married Indians.

TI: Okay, so these were just generally bachelor men.

YS: Yeah, most of 'em were bachelor men. Then some of started marrying the Indians because they couldn't get Filipinos.

TI: Right, and did that happen before the war, did they start marrying the Indians?

YS: Yeah. I mean, they didn't have kids, but they just started to get married, you know, Indians.

TI: Right. Because I know, and then it seemed like it even accelerated more after the war started. But when the Japanese left, the Filipinos took care of a lot of the farms and then more Indians came and then there was more marriages between the two.

YS: Yeah. Filipinos took over some of that. See, we left ours to the hakujin neighbor there.

TI: Yeah, so tell me about that. How did that work out?

YS: Well, see they were too old, so they had to quit. They were a pretty old couple. But they wanted to do it.

TI: So they were former strawberry farmers?

YS: No, they were just neighbors.

TI: Okay. They had never farmed strawberries before?

YS: No.

TI: Because you were taken right before the harvest.

YS: Yeah, see, it was in...

TI: In March?

YS: March 28th was when we left.

TI: So the season was happening in a couple of months.

YS: Yeah, come in May, see.

TI: So the berries were on the vine?

YS: Yeah, probably toward the end of May I think we'd start strawberries. It depends on the year, but then some years it comes a little earlier.

TI: So what kind of arrangement did your family have with this older couple to take care of your house? How did that work out?

YS: They were good neighbors, but they couldn't do it. Getting too old. Then the daughter was there, too, married daughter, but then they couldn't do it either, so they leased it out to the Filipinos, I think.

TI: So they just hired people to...

YS: Yeah, to do the... but like I say, you left everything.

TI: And during this time, when they harvest the berries, did the family get any of that money?

YS: No. They kept all the money.

TI: So that was kind of the arrangement, that they could keep everything, but they were just watching?

YS: Watching. I don't think they ever got any money out of it, I don't know.

TI: Because they just weren't good enough at farming?

YS: Yeah, because that's what we're talking about. Heck, well, we shouldn't do nothing, weed it or do nothing, but they said, "You guys got to take care of it." They said, "You can't just leave it, you got to take care of it just like you would if you're gonna harvest it." But, see, we left 28th of March, and we got down there April 1st, so we were telling 'em, "This is April Fool's." [Laughs]

TI: Oh, you mean to Manzanar, you got there on April 1st?

YS: Yeah.

TI: Before we go to Manzanar, I just wanted to ask about Walt Woodward. Now, did you know who he was when you were growing up?

YS: Yeah.

TI: And so tell me a little bit about Walt Woodward and who he was.

YS: Well, he was thing of the paper, the Bainbridge Review. He used, I think, Paul Ohtaki, he used to do things with him, I think, quite a bit. But he was the one that really stuck up for Japanese. He says, "It isn't right what they're doing."

TI: Yeah, he was one of the few newspaper people, like after December 7th, and even before the Japanese left, he was sort of urging caution, that, "These are our neighbors and we shouldn't jump to conclusions." He said some of those things.

YS: Yeah. He says, "It's not right." Then he said, people said, "Well, I'm going to quit the paper." He said, "I don't care whether you quit the paper or not." He says, "What's right is right," he said, which is right, I guess.

TI: Now, did you ever have opportunities to talk with him or meet with him?

YS: Well, no. We used to see him, but then I never did really talk to him.

TI: Now you mentioned earlier Paul Ohtaki. How did he get to know...

YS: Well, he worked for him, I think.

TI: Oh, so he was already working at the newspaper?

YS: Yeah, I think he kind of was working there. He always refers to Paul Ohtaki. Well, Paul Ohtaki's mother was a teacher, Japanese teacher, I said that.

TI: Were there ever any incidences where the Japanese were threatened or harmed before they left the island?

YS: I don't think there were. I don't remember.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: How about, how much notice did the family have before they had to leave? Because Bainbridge Island was the very first.

YS: Yeah, we were the very first.

TI: And so I'm wondering, by being the very first, how much did time did you have?

YS: Well, I thought it was a week or two weeks, something like that. It wasn't very long.

TI: Yeah, because all the other communities could kind of anticipate, but not Bainbridge, because you were the first one.

YS: No. They told us, they got the notice, you're going, you're going. Well, see, they come and picked us up with a truck with a soldier, I mean, there was no charges. That's what they said was bad, there was no charges. But they come and picked you up.

TI: Did people ever ask yourselves why were we the first ones to go?

YS: Because we got, there's a shipyard, all that stuff around there. See, Bremerton had a shipyard, we had a shipyard on the island, too. But then they were, shipyards and stuff were close by, so they figured that we would be the ones that do it. That's what they say, that's why we got shipped out first.

TI: Well, there was also -- and were you aware -- there was also a, it was kind of a secret listening station on Bainbridge Island, too, that they would try to intercept Japanese radio signals, and that was located, I guess, up on a hill on Bainbridge Island. Did people know anything about that?

YS: No, there was nothing like that. Just like they say they're planting some things to point a certain way and stuff, but there was nothing like that. But that's what they claimed.

TI: Oh, these kind of rumors?

YS: Yeah, rumors that they planted their crops a certain way because they're pointing... but then that was all just hearsay.

TI: Well, the Bainbridge Island, when you left the island, is one of the better-known ones because there were so many photographs that were taken, coming down the ferry, came into Seattle.

YS: Yeah. Just like some of them kids took a boat and followed the ferry out quite a ways, and they got reprimanded.

TI: So why did they do that?

YS: Well, they just wanted to follow us out and say goodbye, and they got reprimanded. They were not supposed to take off from school, too.

TI: So did any of your, like, white classmates, did they come to say goodbye?

YS: Yeah. There was quite a few people at the dock. See, it wasn't Winslow dock, it was Eagledale dock. So that was a little different. That's how far, that stuff they put up, that stuff for us, it's on Eagledale dock, not Winslow.

TI: The memorial that they have up there.

YS: Memorial, yeah.

TI: Have you seen that?

YS: Yeah, I've seen that.

TI: It's nice.

YS: It's made nice. And like I say, no nail, it's all, some of them sheds, no wood, no nails or nothing.

TI: Yeah. No, they did a really good memorial.

YS: Yeah, really made nice.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: But going back to that day when you walked down the Eagledale dock and you had friends there, how would you describe the mood of that day? What were people, like your friends, did you talk to any of your friends?

YS: Yeah. Well, you couldn't... just whatever you could on the way down, but then that's about it. You see 'em, but then you could... of course, there's school on that day, too. Yeah, it was quite a deal.

TI: Was there a lot of sadness?

YS: Yeah, it was.

TI: And how about the soldiers? What were they like?

YS: Well, see, that's one, too, soldier says, he says, "We're from Brooklyn," and he said, "First Jap we see, we're gonna kill him."

TI: So he said that to, you heard him say that?

YS: Yeah, they were talking about that. They said after they took us down to Manzanar, they took donations, subscribed to the paper for us for a month.

TI: Oh, so they became kind of friends?

YS: They said, "You guys are not bad."

TI: So they took a donation amongst the soldiers?

YS: Yeah, amongst the soldiers.

TI: So they could buy you guys a newspaper subscription?

YS: For one month, yeah. Yeah, that was quite a deal.

TI: And any other stories like that, with the soldiers being nice to people? Do you have any other stories like that?

YS: You mean...

TI: Yeah, I mean, like, whether or not maybe for food or anything else that you...

YS: Yeah, just like, too, they go in, they ate, and they said, "Hey, that food ain't fit for a hog," you know. [Laughs] And it wasn't, them days. I mean, there was nothing there. But that's first thing they said, they come out and they say, "Hey, that food ain't fit for a..."

TI: And so you go down the Eagledale dock, and then you go on the ferry. Was the ferry just the Japanese and soldiers, or were there other passengers?

YS: No, just the Japanese and the soldiers.

TI: And then you go across the Sound and then you go to Seattle. And then what was it like when you landed in Seattle?

YS: Oh, heck, there were thousands of people there. I guess they wanted to know what was going on. I mean, they must have heard about it but they wanted to see, I guess. So that overpass thing, that was just solid full of people. Then down below, too, on the dock, thousands of people.

TI: And so what were you thinking when all this happened? I mean, all these people were watching you, you're from this little island, and you come to the city and thousands of people are watching.

YS: Yeah, then there are trains right there on the Railroad Avenue, see. So they put us on that train.

TI: Do you know if there were any Japanese from Seattle there watching?

YS: Oh, yeah, probably was. There were so many people there, you couldn't tell any of them. Yeah, just as we were coming off, you could see some. But then, like I say, all above, all those people and stuff, man.

TI: And what was the... the people watching, were they saying anything or did you hear them say anything?

YS: No they didn't say... I didn't think they'd say anything.

TI: So it was just kind of quiet, and they're just kind of watching?

YS: Watching to see what it was like, what it was doing, I guess.

TI: Interesting. And so then you boarded a bus, or, I'm sorry, trains.

YS: Train, yeah.

TI: And then...

YS: That's the one he said stopped in Portland, so we told 'em, "Well, we might jump off. What would you do?" He said, "I wouldn't do anything." [Laughs]

TI: The soldier said that to you?

YS: Yeah.

TI: So you were kind of, like, joking with the...

YS: Yeah, we just thought, "What would you do if we jumped off?" He said, "I don't know what I'd do."

TI: So by then, you were talking, and so he got to know you a little bit.

YS: Yeah, they were pretty good, you know. They were talking to everybody, too. No, they were, after a while they were pretty good.

TI: But that's a long train ride.

YS: Yeah, it was two days, I think.

TI: All the way down to Manzanar.

YS: Of course, we, they were bypassed for everything, too. And just like they tell, they leave the curtains all shut, too, when you go, 'cause we crossed some of these high bridges, if they see you they might bomb it or something. So they tell us to keep the curtains shut and stuff. Yeah, it was quite a deal. Just like when we got down there, just like they said, they put us on buses. Then the bus stopped so we says, "What are you doing?" He said, "This is where you get off," right in the middle of the desert. See, we're not used to that.

TI: And so they stopped, I'm trying to think where the train... did they stop like in Lone Pine or Independence? I'm trying to think where, what town the train would stop.

YS: Yeah, when we got off? Was it Lone Pine? Yeah, I guess it was Lone Pine, yeah.

TI: Because there was that little town there, Lone Pine.

YS: Yeah, there was a little town, that's where we got off and got on a bus. Was it Lone Pine? I was thinking about that, too.

TI: But when you got there, what kind of... was it a nice day when you got down there?

YS: Yeah, it was pretty good, I think.

TI: Because when you go down there that time of year, I mean, it's pretty beautiful. I mean the mountains are there. It's so different than Bainbridge Island and the Northwest.

YS: Of course, it wasn't really hot then because that was March.

TI: Yeah, so the weather's probably not too bad. Might be a little chilly.

YS: Yeah, yeah. Well, then the camp, of course, it was all dug out and everything, ditches all over and sand on the floor, cracks in the floor like that.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So we're going to start again. But we were just talking off camera a little bit that you were fourteen, almost fifteen, and was that first time you'd ever been on a train?

YS: Yeah, I think so.

TI: And so it must have been... there must have been, although it was a long train ride, it must have been kind of exciting to see the...

YS: Well, we had porters, too. We had, what you call that train that makes breads?

TI: Makes bread?

YS: Bed, beds.

TI: Oh...

YS: Pullman, Pullman.

TI: So you got to actually sleep?

YS: Yeah, we had Pullmans.

TI: So there was enough beds for everyone?

YS: Yeah. The porters and everything.

TI: And a dining car then?

YS: Yeah, I think we had a dining car.

TI: Yeah, for some reason I didn't know that, because that's a lot better than most people.

YS: Yeah, they got just on the day train. Yeah, we had porters, too. It was kind of unusual, I think.

TI: But then they made you keep the blinds down?

YS: Yeah.

TI: But then you probably peeked a little bit, didn't you?

YS: You could, yeah. But you know, you're out there, lay the bed down, they have those... they make a bed, you sleep on the upstairs, too, downstairs.

TI: Kind of like a bunk?

YS: Bunk, yeah. That was quite a thing, because we never...

TI: And so this was really probably your first time really leaving the area.

YS: Yeah, leaving the area.

TI: And you got to see things. So did you explore the train and things like that?

YS: Yeah, we walked around and stuff.

TI: And you got to know the guards a little bit?

YS: Yeah. But like they say, that's the one that said, they're the ones that said, "Keep your blinds down."

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: But then you get to Manzanar or the Owens Valley, and you go there, and the landscape looks like an old Western, those rolling hills.

YS: Yeah, and I mean, just a flat desert. When we got there, that block was just made. That was Block 2, but there was all the bachelors and stuff there, they must have got there earlier than we did. Ditches, three or four feet deep ditches and everything.

TI: So it's kind of dangerous for people to walk around. You could just fall, or especially at night if you're walking around, because there were probably no lights.

YS: No lights or nothing. But then like I say, cracks in the floor, there was more sand on the floor than there was outside. [Laughs]

TI: And so I'm thinking that there must have still been a lot of workers there building the place.

YS: Oh, yeah, build the next block and so on.

TI: And who was building? I mean, were they... did you ever talk to the workers?

YS: No, I don't know who was working, who was making it. But it's all, I imagine it was just all Caucasians, I imagine.

TI: And so other than some bachelors there, you were the first group.

YS: Yeah, we were the first family group to evacuate.

TI: And so how many blocks did the Bainbridge group...

YS: We had one block.

TI: One block? And what block number was that?

YS: Three. Two were the bachelors, and three were the next block, that's where we were, Block 3.

TI: And so those first days of Manzanar, what was it like? I'm thinking that must be a little rough because they're still figuring things out.

YS: Because you make your own mattress out of straw and stuff. If you didn't, you'd have nothing to sleep on.

TI: And when you got there, did they have guards already?

YS: Oh, yeah, guards were there.

TI: So guard towers.

YS: And the fence, I forget if the fence was all up or not, but then it might not have been.

TI: But then you were told not to go beyond a certain place?

YS: Yeah, you're just supposed to just stay around the... I mean, these guys didn't know what to do.

TI: So you're like this fourteen, fifteen year old kid, what did you do those first few days?

YS: I don't know what we did. Just go visit, I guess.

TI: So just within the block you stayed with the...

YS: Yeah, within the block.

TI: Then how long was it before other people started coming?

YS: Oh, they started coming in pretty quick. I don't remember... I mean, as soon as the block, as soon as the thing got built, people would come in. They'd bring 'em in.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Now I was doing interviews in California, in Southern California, people who came from Terminal Island, San Pedro area. So for them, they were the first group to go to Manzanar. So were they, were they the ones who were moving in to Manzanar?

YS: Yeah. Almost all, mostly all California.

TI: But in particular, they were coming from this sort of fishing...

YS: Yeah, Terminal Island. They're the ones that are bad. They want to fight all the time.

TI: Yeah, they were a pretty rough group. They would talk about how they almost had their own language, their own dialect of kind of pidgin, Japanese, English, that they said that they spoke.

YS: Yeah. You know, funny thing about that, too, is that when I went to California a couple years later, and I was in the Miyako and I was coming down the stairs, there were those Terminal Island guys downstairs, "Oh my god, how are you, how are you?" [Laughs]

TI: So now they're your best friends? So they recognized you?

YS: Yeah, they recognized me and I talked to 'em. I said, "Hey, how you guys doing?" But get in a bunch, they want to fight. Because, hell, they were next block from us. We were in 3, and 9's right across the street. And 4 was this way, but 9 was right across the street. Heck, them guys, they always play basketball, they want to fight, play baseball, they want to fight.

TI: So why would they want to fight? Because you didn't do anything, right, you were just...

YS: You don't sound off to 'em, really, you know. This one guy says, "Take it easy." Poom, he just hits somebody. What chance you got? Them guys got so many guys. So just like when, was playing basketball, was going to leave, and, whatever, double-A, triple-A, whatever it was. And we were, both of us were undefeated, and they wanted to play us. [Laughs] We knew what they wanted to do, they wanted to fight. So we said, "No, we got to move, we got to move, so we don't want to play." But we knew what they wanted to do, they wanted to fight.

TI: So did that surprise you? Because you grew up with other Japanese, and even Seattle Japanese, and probably didn't see that kind of behavior. And so this was a very different...

YS: Yeah, it was different. Well, then we knew some of them freshmen and stuff, they were, by themselves, they were pretty good. They visit with you and everything. But get in a group, and they were... they call 'em pachucos, that's what we used to call them.

TI: Yeah, it was funny because I asked some of the Terminal Island people about the Bainbridge people, and they said, yeah, they thought the Bainbridge Island people were a little strange, they were a little, they were a little too quiet and to themselves. [Laughs] That's what they thought. Because I was curious. So, yeah, they thought you were kind of more like farmers, more country people, and they were more of the city people.

YS: Well, just like this one island family had a cousin from Terminal Island, and then a few blocks away, they come over all the time and stuff. They get the men involved, they just...

TI: Well, it's kind of interesting, because I've done interviews around the country, and the Bainbridge Island people were a pretty close-knit community and got along. And then the San Pedro, Terminal Island people, even in California, had a reputation of being pretty rough. And so it was like this clash of two different cultures that were very different that happened. Did you ever, were you ever able to make friends during that time?

YS: Oh yeah, we made friends with some of them. Some of them used to come over all the time and play ping pong or whatever, so there were some. San Leandro, we had San Leandro people in our block, too, and they were pretty good.

TI: It's just that sometimes for that, when they got together as a group for sports and things. Now were there ever any big fights between the two groups?

YS: Oh, yeah, there was sometimes a pretty good fight.

TI: Now, did you ever get involved in any of these fights?

YS: No, we didn't. We stayed away from them.

TI: [Laughs] That sounds pretty wild. So after you were there for a while, I mean, you don't really start school until the fall, right?

YS: Yeah, we didn't go to school for seven months.

TI: Yeah, so what did you do during that time? How did you keep busy? You had, like, seven months of no school.

YS: Yeah, see, from March 'til October we didn't go to school. And then when we started school, we sat on the floor.

TI: Oh, so they had no desks or benches or anything?

YS: No.

TI: How about books and things like that?

YS: Yeah, I guess we had books, but I remember sitting on the floor.

TI: And so, for you, was that okay, or did you miss school?

YS: Well, no. I guess we were having fun, so we probably didn't care about school. I think it was October they started.

TI: Now during those early months, what was the security like at Manzanar? Were you able to, like, leave outside the fence or anything like that, or did you have to stay inside?

YS: Yeah. They said that was for that, people to, keep the people out, but it's what they... they shot, I think, a few.

TI: So you were being guarded, you were being, like, a prisoner.

YS: Oh, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So you started school in October after seven months. And then a little bit later, December 1942, there was a disturbance or an uprising, they called it the Manzanar Riot. Do you remember that?

YS: Yeah.

TI: So what happened?

YS: Well, I guess we was outside, and we see these guys coming down through the firebreaks, you know, maybe twenty, thirty wide, all marching. Hell, we didn't know what was going on. They were marching down to the administration.

TI: And was that pretty close to your --

YS: Oh, yeah, see, we were the, 2 and then firebreak, and then our block was there. But then coming down through the firebreaks, man, there were thousands of people.

TI: Wow, so what were you thinking?

YS: Well, we didn't know what to think. They said, "Stay away from the administration," because they were going down there. Well, I heard it was hakujin people stealing sugar and stuff there. But then a lot of it was that volunteer, service, I mean, the "no-nos" and stuff.

TI: Well, so you had Fred Tayama, who was beat up, so he was...

YS: Yeah, they called him inu.

TI: Yeah, so they thought, yeah, he was like a informant or inu, and so they put, in custody, they had a man, Harry Ueno, and I guess people were upset about that so they were trying to free him, so they were protesting that. But you didn't know what was going on.

YS: No, we didn't know what was going on. Then we heard shots and stuff, too, but we didn't go down there. They said stay away from down there.

TI: And so when the guards shot, there were shots fired, what happened? You said there were like thousands going down there.

YS: That's what they say. The thing is, the innocent people get shot, and the people in the back are the ones that are pushing. So, actually, the person in the front's got no chance.

TI: Because they had no place to run or anything?

YS: Yeah, nothing to do. They said the people in the back just keep pushing. I guess that'd be right, bunch of people.

TI: And could you see some of that happening?

YS: Well, no, we didn't see it, but we stayed away.

TI: And after that happened, how did things change? Did anything change at Manzanar?

YS: Well, they came and put martial law or whatever they were doing, and they... I don't know, they just got better.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: But then pretty soon after that, you were going to school for a while, but then most of the people from Bainbridge Island then moved from Manzanar to Minidoka. So how did that happen? Why did all the families move?

YS: Well, they said that we couldn't get along, so that's what they... you know, just like I read in the book, Nisei book and stuff, they say that's what happened. Because the northern people couldn't get along with the fishermen. Well, they didn't really. But then there's a few island people who stayed, you know, in Manzanar.

TI: But just a few. Most of them went to Minidoka.

YS: Yeah, most of the whole block, about three or four families, I think, stayed.

TI: Now was that something that the Bainbridge Island families, did they request to leave?

YS: Yeah, I guess so. I didn't hear about what they did. They said they weren't getting along, so they wanted to leave.

TI: How about your parents? Do you know if they wanted to leave?

YS: No, I guess they just went with the flow, I guess.

TI: Because I'm just wondering because here they had so many boys, and with all the fighting and stuff, I'm wondering if they were concerned about you and your brothers, if they ever said anything.

YS: Yeah, but most of them came to Minidoka.

TI: So when you'd go to Minidoka, how was Minidoka different than Manzanar?

YS: Oh, it was... Manzanar was a lot nicer, you know, square, and then people there gave you a ride and stuff if you needed it. But Minidoka, they wouldn't do that.

TI: So explain that more. So at Manzanar people were more friendly?

YS: Well, I guess they figured it's not their rig, not their gas, so they took us to where we wanted to go sometimes. But see, then, Minidoka, we were 44, see, so we were a long ways from school. School was in 23.

TI: So it was a long walk.

YS: Yeah, long walk. And we thought that we'd...

TI: Hitch a ride or something?

YS: Ride, heck, they'd just blow on by.

TI: Because, so was it a case where at Minidoka, the people followed the rules more closely?

YS: Yeah, I guess.

TI: In Manzanar they were looser and they would do different things?

YS: Because they liked to say, "That's not our rig, this is not our gas, heck, we'll take you there."

TI: Interesting.

YS: Yeah. But Minidoka, they wouldn't give you a ride like they did down there, that part was...

TI: So that was disappointing.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: What other differences did you see?

YS: You know, just like Manzanar, we had to weave the camouflage nets, too.

TI: Oh, did you do some of that?

YS: Yeah.

TI: Oh, interesting. So what was that like? I mean, I've seen pictures of it. It was kind of like this web, right, people were like in a circle almost?

YS: These were hanging up, big, big ones. And they hang up a pattern, and then you just weave the thing in just like the pattern.

TI: And so they had even, like, teenage boys doing this, too?

YS: Yeah I've done it, weaving them camouflage nets. You wonder, heck, why should we make a camouflage net when we're in the camp? But that's what they let us do.

TI: And so that was a paying job for you? You got paid to do this?

YS: Yeah. They say you do so many, you get to go home.

TI: Really? They told you if you did so many, enough that you would go... oh, you mean go home to your block.

YS: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Okay. So it was like piecework.

YS: So if everybody works hard, then they get to go home.

TI: And I can't remember. Was the pay different when you did camouflage nets? Seemed like that was a, like a private company that did it?

YS: It was the same, just a regular pay.

TI: Same, the twelve dollars a month kind of thing?

YS: Yeah. It was something else. It's amazing that we have to do it.

TI: Yeah, I didn't realize they had kids do it. I thought it was just adults that did the camouflage. Any other, before we go to Minidoka, any other memories about Manzanar that you have? We talked about, sort of, the sports, starting school late, some of the tension with the Terminal Island Japanese Americans, the Manzanar Riot, camouflage nets, anything else that stands out?

YS: Just had that one Catholic priest, says, they're baking cookies, says first one come out too light, that's white people, he said. Next one, they left it too long and they said that's the black people. He said the third, cooked just right, he said, "That's you Japanese." [Laughs]

TI: That's what this Catholic priest said? Was that like a sermon he said that?

YS: Yeah.

TI: Oh, that's funny. So did you go to the Catholic church?

YS: Well, I used to go once in a while. You know, something different.

TI: So he was really friendly to the Japanese.

YS: Yeah, yeah. That was a pretty good one.

TI: [Laughs] I've never heard that. So the Japanese are just right, it's kind of like one's undercooked, one's overcooked, and the Japanese are just right.

YS: Says, "Japanese are just right, that's you guys."

TI: No, I've never heard that. That's funny.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So let's go back to Minidoka, and some of the differences you said, so the Minidoka people wouldn't pick up people for rides.

YS: Yeah, especially like, say, we're way up there. So we wanted a ride once in a while.

TI: And how about in terms of fighting? Was there as much fighting going on in Minidoka?

YS: No, there wasn't.

TI: But then you also had, you were able to see some of your friends in Seattle because they were all Minidoka?

YS: Uh-huh, and some Tacoma friends. Well, see, 42 was Tacoma and them, too. We were 44. There was no 43, but 41, 42, 43, 44.

TI: So it sounds like you were pretty much on the...

YS: We were on the very end.

TI: So everything was so far away.

YS: Yeah, we were the very last one they built.

TI: So how far away, so the hospital was pretty far, too. So if someone got sick or something...

YS: The hospital was quite a ways, yeah. The hospital was way down there.

TI: Now how about school? How was school?

YS: School was 23, I think, so it wasn't too bad.

TI: And how would you compare the school at Minidoka with the school at Manzanar?

YS: Manzanar? Well, Minidoka was... I don't know, we were, I had a business law class, but then she'd give you assignment and go back and lay on the bed.

TI: So that was the teacher, she would just, she would just kind of take it easy, I guess.

YS: She said she wasn't well.

TI: And how would the schooling compare with what you were getting on Bainbridge Island?

YS: Oh, there'd be a lot of difference.

TI: So how was it different?

YS: Well, I think they were a lot tougher on the island.

TI: So the school was a lot better.

YS: Yeah, and there wasn't, school in camp was not real good, I don't think high class teachers and stuff.

TI: How about your parents? What did they do at Minidoka? Did they have jobs?

YS: Yeah, see, I forget what my dad used to do when he went out to the farm. Most of the women worked in the kitchen and stuff, too.

TI: And how about like your older brothers? What did they do, and older sister? Did they have jobs?

YS: Yeah, I forget what they'd done. See, we went out, too, after a while, work.

TI: Oh, so like farms and things like that?

YS: Yeah, picking spuds and stuff.

TI: So before we leave Minidoka, any other stories about Minidoka, any other memories? Like when, was the whole family together still at Minidoka? There were, like, two, four, six kids and your parents? So did you have one room or two rooms?

YS: One room.

TI: Wow.

YS: Well, two rooms, but one... yeah. So everybody slept there.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's talk about leaving Minidoka. Where did the family go after leaving Minidoka?

YS: See, they went back to Bainbridge, and I come out here.

TI: Oh, so the family first went back to...

YS: Well, my sister was married, I think, got married, and that's why I come out here. I didn't care for Seattle because of the wet weather.

TI: So you wanted a change.

YS: Yeah, I wanted a change.

TI: And so your sister got married and was living...

YS: She was out here, yeah.

TI: Like in Ontario?

YS: Around Vale. And so I come out here.

TI: And so what did you think you were going... now, did you finish high school in Bainbridge or here?

YS: No, Minidoka.

TI: Oh, Minidoka, so you finished.

YS: I finished there and then I come out.

TI: And what were you thinking you would do here over on Eastern Oregon?

YS: Well, I didn't know what...

TI: But you were going to live with your sister?

YS: Well, yeah, they were farming, so I didn't know. See, I stayed... well, we come out, '44 we come out toward the slope first, but then we were with a cousin, they were working for a cousin, and then they went back to Bainbridge.

TI: Going back to, when you returned to Bainbridge, I forgot to ask this question, what was the reception of people? Like did you see some of your old friends? And what did they say when they saw you?

YS: Well, I think it was pretty good. I wasn't back there that much, so I didn't... once in a while I'd see somebody, but then they were the ones that I didn't know how... this guy, he just said if you pay the interest in the thing, you can have the ground back. So he got it back, but he was lucky.

TI: Your father?

YS: Huh?

TI: You're talking about your father or who?

YS: No, my brother.

TI: Your brother. Oh, I see, okay.

YS: Because the Issei couldn't own the... I think it was bought, it was under my brother's name anyhow.

TI: So he just had to pay kind of the interest in terms of the loan?

YS: Interest on the property tax and stuff, and then they gave it back to him.

TI: And what was the shape of the property?

YS: Oh, it was bad, he said. It was bad; it was really run down.

TI: So there strawberries were all bad?

YS: Yeah, they had to really work at it to get it back in shape.

TI: And how about the house?

YS: Yeah, house, too, was bad, I guess.

TI: But at least they had the property to come back to.

YS: Yeah. So they went back, and I guess they never did say anything, so I guess it was all right.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Well, so you came to this, the Ontario area, but then you, shortly after, then you joined the service?

YS: Yeah, I went in the service.

TI: Were you drafted, or did you volunteer?

YS: No, I volunteered.

TI: Now why'd you volunteer?

YS: Well, all these guys were, going in, they said... well, I went in with Kamihara Ogura and Kami Kido and a bunch of 'em, and Kamihara said, "Let's go in for two years and we get four years of college." I said, "All right, I'll go for that." So I go in there, and he comes out in a year and a half, and I had to serve the extra time.

TI: Now why is that? Why'd you have extra time?

YS: Well, we signed up for two years.

TI: And he only did a year and a half?

YS: He only did a year and a half, he got to come back. And I told him, "You're the one who talked me into it, and you come back?" [Laughs]

TI: So why only a year and a half, because they didn't have anything for him to do?

YS: Most of them was a year and a half, see. Most of the thing was a year and half, you just go for a year and a half. But like I say, he says the two years and we get to go to four years of college, and I said all right.

TI: But you stayed longer, but then you were also shipped to Japan, right?

YS: Yeah, I got to go to Japan.

TI: And what was your job in Japan, or what was your...

YS: I worked in the provost court, that town.

TI: So this is kind of like the law kind of...

YS: Yeah, that's whatever they try 'em on, Japanese people and stuff.

TI: So it's kind of like a civil court?

YS: Yeah, it's kind of just a civil court like.

TI: And so what was your job?

YS: We was a clerk, they called us a clerk. But there was quite a few Nihonjins in there, too.

TI: Now did you have to use Japanese, too?

YS: Yeah, if you talked to certain ones. But the judges and everything, they were all GIs, the officer.

TI: And you would try, like, Japanese civilians would come?

YS: Yeah, some Japanese civilians, it's black market or whatever, where they have trouble otherwise.

TI: It sounds like it might be kind of interesting work.

YS: Yeah. I mean, we lived out of town of Tokyo a little ways, but then we used to drive in every day to downtown Tokyo, that's where we worked.

TI: So were there any cases or trials that really stand out in your mind as being interesting or memorable?

YS: Well, I don't remember too many of those.

TI: Okay. And when you were in Japan, did you visit any of your relatives?

YS: Yeah, that's the one. I went... see, this girl I used to work with, she wrote for me to relatives, to tell 'em that they want to come sometime and whatever. I got, we got all that work done and I went down there to visit, like, say, my mother's sister's kids, and that's where I stayed. I forgot how many days I stayed there. That's the one that I go with him, we go to the bath and they swim. They were younger, their kids were younger.

TI: And so what did they think of you? Here you are an American soldier...

YS: Yeah, that's why, so I'm walking around with a camera, and they said, "Oh, teppo, teppo." [Laughs]

TI: Teppo, teppo, what does that mean?

YS: Gun.

TI: Oh, I see. They thought you had a gun, but it was just a camera.

YS: It was just a camera, and they said, teppo, teppo. Yeah, no, he stayed there and waited for me all day. I guess he must have got it crossed up, the time.

TI: And how was the family doing in terms of things like food and supplies? Were they doing okay? Because I hear a lot of the families, it was pretty hard for some of them.

YS: Yeah, they were, I guess they were... I guess they were all right. I went out to the country, but my mom's sister passed away before I got there. But it's an old house, like I say, a straw roof and everything.

TI: That must have been fun to see.

YS: Yeah. But the one that I stayed with, they lived in town, they got the regular house. The other one out in the country, it was a straw roof.

TI: Now do you remember, when you went to go visit them, did you bring gifts or anything?

YS: Yeah, I just brought some foodstuff that we can get. They really appreciated it, I guess.

TI: So did you just visit them once, or did you go more than once?

YS: No, I just went down there that one time.

TI: Now what did you think of Japan? This was the country of your parents, did you... did it feel comfortable to you?

YS: Yeah. I think it really, I liked about it was honest. Just like you go in the store and they got cameras and stuff just sitting out in the open, you know. You think somebody'd steal it, they don't steal it. And then just like when we went back to visit there, we went back there about ten years later or whatever. And suitcase and stuff, they said, "Just leave it between the car." "It's out in the open." "Yeah, it'll be all right." Yeah, you get to your destination, heck.

TI: No, it is nice not to have to worry about those things.

YS: Yeah, just like ladies, they come in and eat, they come and get the table, they leave their purses and everything there and get their food and then come back. That's where I, I mean, that was really nice, I thought.

TI: Any other memories about Japan that stand out for you in that, especially that first trip when you went down, anything else?

YS: No.

TI: Now, did any of your Japanese relatives come and visit you in the United States?

YS: No, they never come up this way, even the young kids.

TI: So how long were you in Japan?

YS: From January 'til August, it was about two years or a year and a half. I was there from... I was in the service two years, and I was there a year and a half or longer.

TI: So all that Japanese school training paid off a little bit.

YS: Yeah. Actually, I should have been serious. [Laughs]

TI: But it was probably a good opportunity to learn more Japanese.

YS: Oh, yeah, it was.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And so after Japan, you come back to Ontario.

YS: I stayed up at Bainbridge a little bit, and then I came back.

TI: Okay. And during that time, how did the family, your brother's farm and everything, did that all get kind of back to normal?

YS: Yeah, well, see, the oldest brother stayed there, and then other brothers, one went to post office, another one was farming in Kent. They passed away.

TI: And the Kent farmer, was that strawberries also?

YS: Yeah, he had strawberries, too. And then the one worked for the post office.

TI: And then you came over here.

YS: Yeah, I came back here, and so I've been here...

TI: Ever since?

YS: Ever since.

TI: So that's from, like, 1950?

YS: I came back from the service in '48.

TI: So that's sixty-five years or something. And so you met your wife here?

YS: Here.

TI: Now your wife, did she grow up in this area, or did she...

YS: No, she was from Yakima, Toppenish area, I think, Toppenish.

TI: So how did she get to Ontario?

YS: Because they got, from Heart Mountain, they come out here.

TI: And what's your, your wife's name is?

YS: Joan.

TI: Joan? And what was her maiden name?

YS: Hirano, H-I-R-A-N-O.

TI: And she was from Toppenish?

YS: Yeah.

TI: Yeah, so a lot of people from that area went to Heart Mountain from Yakima area.

YS: But she come out here pretty early, I guess. They didn't want to stay there or something, then they come out here.

TI: And so when did you get your own farm? How did that happen?

YS: 1952, I think it was, the year I started farming.

TI: And so tell me about that farm. How big was it?

YS: Well, I just had potatoes and 20, 30 acres, and it was real good that year.

TI: And so when you have a good year, what does that mean? Does that mean you can buy more stuff?

YS: Yeah, you could buy more stuff, buy a pickup or buy a car or whatever.

TI: Did you buy more land, too, or did you just...

YS: No, I just bought a car and stuff.

TI: And so did you keep that same farm all these years?

YS: Yeah.

TI: And so always, like, 20 to 30 acres and doing potatoes?

YS: Yeah, I grew potatoes, and then after that, I started growing onions and corn, beets, oh, twenty years ago, I guess, I must have quit, and my son took over. And, of course, he quit now, too. He's got some hay, but he's working for Simplot.

TI: Now I'm curious, out of, like, ten years, how many of those years would be good years and how many year would be bad years?

YS: [Laughs] Well, you're lucky if every third year might be pretty good. Sometimes it's two years in a row. It just depends on, some other part of the country. If they got failure, then...

TI: Then that's a good year for you if someone else fails?

YS: Yeah.

TI: And a bad year would be when the prices are bad, or they're...

YS: Yeah, or they're just not very good price.

TI: Interesting.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Okay, and how many children, Yosh, did you have?

YS: I got three boys.

TI: Okay, good. So that's the end of my questions. Is there anything else, any other stories or anything else you want to talk about? Maybe a little bit maybe about what the Japanese American community in Ontario is like? I mean, how close are people? If you were to compare Bainbridge Island with Ontario in terms of community, what are some of the differences?

YS: People here are a lot older. No, this was a nice community, I thought. I mean, they have their problems, too. They used to have their bad people, too.

TI: But I'm thinking how do you keep, like the Sansei generation, how do you keep them here to keep farming?

YS: They won't; they're not.

TI: So that's hard because they would all leave?

YS: Yeah. They'd get better jobs. There's a few farmers, but not many. So like they say, in so many years' time period, there won't be any Japanese farms.

TI: That's what I was going to ask you. So what's going to happen in, like, twenty years?

YS: There probably won't be any. Because then the Sanseis' kids won't take it up.

TI: So did you sell the farm, or do you still have it?

YS: No, we sold. I just got my house out in the farm, out in the country.

TI: So many of the Japanese have been selling their land then.

YS: Yeah, a lot of them sold. Like they say, probably the Mormons and Mennonites and Mexicans.

TI: Because these families are buying up these farms, and they're doing the same thing that your, you did and your parents did?

YS: Yeah. They're doing pretty much the same thing, what we were raising.

TI: Now how do they keep their children in the farm? I mean, once they start, why is that different?

YS: I don't know. Like I say, Mennonites, they do pretty good. And the Mexicans... there are not a lot of 'em, but just certain families of Mexicans, like [inaudible] and Rodriguez and them, they're doing pretty good. It's not a lot of the Mexicans, just some of them.

TI: Now is farming easier today than it was...

YS: Yeah, everything is easier, because heck, they got so much equipment nowadays. We was getting by with two tractors, heck, they got ten tractors nowadays. We had to get by with one or two, move your wheels and change your cultivator bars and everything. Now they got everything so they could just go and drive another tractor and another cultivator go with... we had to change it all. Oh yeah, there was lot of difference.

TI: Yeah, it's a whole life I don't really understand.

YS: It's a lot of difference. That's why I suppose that the Sanseis, they're getting different jobs. I don't blame 'em. Whatever they want to do, and heck, if you get good pay...

TI: So, Yosh, thank you so much for doing this interview.

YS: I hope I did all right.

TI: No, you did a great job. This was good. Getting Bainbridge, Manzanar, Minidoka, Ontario, so it was a long, rich life that you had.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.