Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ami Kinoshita Interview
Narrator: Ami Kinoshita
Interviewer: Betty Jean Harry
Location: Gresham, Oregon
Date: May 29, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-kami-01

<Begin Segment 1>

BH: Today is Thursday, May 29, 2014. My name is Betty Jean Harry, I'm a volunteer with the Oregon Nikkei Endowment. I'm interviewing Ami Kinoshita as part of the Minidoka Oral History Project, we're in Gresham, Oregon. Our videographer today is Ian McCluskey. Also present are Janet Kakishita, another volunteer, Todd Mayberry, the Director of Collections and Exhibits at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, and Jayne Ichikawa, Ami's daughter. So let's start with some personal details, Ami. Tell us when and where you were born.

AK: I was born on October 3, 1919, in Enumclaw, Washington.

BH: And for people who don't know, where's Enumclaw?

AK: Well, let's see. I know it's south of -- no, north of Seattle, Washington. You could see Mt. Rainier from there, I know.

BH: What was your full name at birth?

AK: Well, Ami Kinoshita.

BH: What was your maiden name?

AK: Oh, that's right. Ami Nakao. [Laughs]

BH: And is there any significance to the name Ami? How did your parents come to name you Ami?

AK: Well, I think the father thought that was a good name. And he really wanted Emiko, but Ami was Americanized, I thought, but he didn't spell it right.

BH: How did he spell it?

AK: A-M-I instead of A-M-Y.

BH: Well, let's talk about your father. When and where was he born?

AK: He was born in Hiroshima, but I don't know the date.

BH: That's okay. And what did his father's, what did your father's family do in Japan?

AK: I think that they worked by the water, so they must have been a fisherman.

BH: And did your father have any brothers or sister?

AK: I know he had one brother.

BH: And that was an older brother, correct?

AK: Yes.

BH: Okay. Did your father have an opportunity to get educated while he was still in Japan?

AK: That I don't know. I'm not sure.

BH: Now how did he decide to come to America?

AK: Well, he had an older brother, and the older brother always got the family, he had inherited the family things, and so my father came to find his fortune in the U.S.

BH: What was your father's name?

AK: Taitaro Nakao.

BH: And what was his brother's name?

AK: I don't know.

BH: And let's talk about your mom. When and where was she born?

AK: Well, I know she was born in Hiroshima, Japan.

BH: Okay, and what was her name?

AK: Her name? Mitsu Sera.

BH: And what did her family do in Japan?

AK: I never did ask her.

BH: Did she have brothers and sisters?

AK: I know she had two sisters.

BH: And who was the oldest, your mom or one of the sisters?

AK: That I don't know. I did meet the second sister in Japan, though, you know, when I went to visit.

BH: How did your mother decide to come to America?

AK: Well, she was married in Japan, and her and her husband came to America. Well, she followed him.

BH: Do you know how they met?

AK: No, I have no idea. They never talked about things like that.

BH: Was there an age difference between them?

AK: I would say about six or so. I'm not sure.

BH: What was your father like? What was his personality like?

AK: Well, he liked to sing and things, so when we had New Year's party, he would be drumming away on the table. He enjoyed that.

BH: And was he singing Japanese songs?

AK: Yeah, he would sing it. He didn't sing very well, but then, he did sing it.

BH: And how about your mother? What was her personality like?

AK: I think she was more shy.

BH: How would you describe their relationship?

AK: To me they were just fine.

BH: And how did they deal with difficult situations? How did they deal with good times?

AK: How did they deal with good times?

BH: What kinds of things made them happy?

AK: Well, I know my dad always liked to, you know, where we lived in the lumber camp, on Halloween or New Year's, I should say, they would all get together and they, each family would take turns having a New Year party, you know. So he enjoyed singing. My mother, she was quiet.

BH: When your father first came to America, did your mother come with him?

AK: No, she came later.

BH: And he came to make his fortune. Did he know what he was going to be doing when he got here?

AK: No, I don't know how he got into lumber company. I don't know.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BH: So they were living in northern Washington, and so that's where you grew up for a while. How many brothers and sisters did you have?

AK: I have three brothers and then a sister.

BH: Okay. So tell me who's the oldest and where you fit in.

AK: The three boys were born in Japan before they even came to America, and then, of course, I came. So there's quite a bit of age difference between us. And then I had a younger sister.

BH: Who was also born here?

AK: Who was born here.

BH: Okay, so what are the names of your brothers and sister?

AK: Well, let's see. Yoshimi and Masami, and the one in Japan I think was Masayoshi. And my sister was named Yoshiko and they called her Austa. I think that's a nickname.

BH: Tell me how long your dad was here before your mom came over.

AK: I just can't say for sure.

BH: That's okay. But he came first, he worked in the lumber mills. How long did you live in Enumclaw before you moved to the coast?

AK: I think that I was about ten or so. I can't remember too much about the lumber area.

BH: Do you remember going to school in Enumclaw?

AK: We had to catch a bus, and so I remember from the place where I lived to catch the bus, we had to walk quite a ways. And when it snowed, I used to cry because I couldn't make the hill. I could remember that.

BH: At school, were there other Japanese children?

AK: Not that I can remember.

BH: What kinds of things did you and your brothers and sisters do for fun? Did you play games?

AK: Well, my brothers were too old, they were working. But my daughter, I mean, my sister, well, I remember playing things like baseball. She was about four years younger than I was, too.

BH: I remember you telling us that you played Kick the Can.

AK: Yeah, I did.

BH: And that your brothers wanted to play hockey and things that you and your sister weren't very interested in.

AK: No, I don't know if they ever... I never got to see them enjoying themselves because they were older.

BH: Did you and your family ever take any trips? Did you have any vacations?

AK: After we were married?

BH: No, when you were little.

AK: No, they were all working hard.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

BH: Then your family moved to the coast. Where did you move to?

AK: Nahcotta, Washington. My father bought an oyster land, and we started an oyster farm.

BH: Do you know how he came to decide, to move from working in lumber to oysters?

AK: Well, I think that when he was in Japan, he was near the water, so he may have had something to do with the oysters, though I never did ask him.

BH: Now, due to the alien land law act, Isseis weren't allowed to have, own their own land.

AK: It was in my name.

BH: It was in your name, okay. All right. So tell me about the oyster farm. Tell me about oyster farming.

AK: Well, I don't know much about it. [Laughs] It was mostly in my name only, you know. I do remember when we used to get the oyster seed from Japan, it would be on the bateau, and my dad would drive around, and then I would be on the back shoveling the oyster seed on the oyster bed.

BH: How old were you then?

AK: Oh, gee, I must have been about fifteen or sixteen.

BH: And were there certain times of year that you did this?

AK: I can't remember. It would be in the springtime. I think the reason why I had to do this was because when I drove the boat, I couldn't go straight enough. I'd go to the same place over and over again while, you know, you had to spread the oysters all over. And so I know that I was in trouble. [Laughs]

BH: It sounds like your parents placed a lot of trust in you to have you try to drive the boat, and I understand you were also driving at a young age.

AK: Yeah, at fifteen. Well, I had to learn how to drive or we wouldn't get anywhere.

BH: Did your parents drive?

AK: No. Well, I think my dad tried to drive, but he gave up on it.

BH: Now there weren't very many Japanese families in Enumclaw if any. How about in Nahcotta? Were there...

AK: No. There was just only one family that I know of.

BH: Do you remember their names?

AK: Odois.

BH: And did they have children your age?

AK: Yeah, there was Masaru and Hiroshi and Hisako and Marian, I think.

BH: Did you keep in contact with them after the war?

AK: No, I didn't. I think they went back east. I did see Masaru, he was in Portland for a while, and he looked me up, so I saw him. It was good to see him.

BH: What do you remember about working with the oysters? You spread them out, did you ever have to string them up or anything?

AK: No. Well, when... well, we used to, it was an experiment, and so they used to take these oyster shells and string 'em. That's after they were taken out, you know. And then they would put a pole in the sea and hang the shells. I don't think it was too much of a success, though. I think they still got it from Japan. But they did get some.

BH: Do you remember the name of the oyster company?

AK: That we had? Stagpole Oyster Company.

BH: And did your mom work, too?

AK: No. Well, she worked in the oyster plant where you open the oysters.

BH: That's hard work.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BH: What school did you attend in Nahcotta?

AK: It's Nahcotta grade school.

BH: And then for high school?

AK: Ilwaco High School.

BH: That was probably a little ways, wasn't it?

AK: About fourteen miles.

BH: So how did you get to school?

AK: School bus.

BH: What was a typical day like for you getting up, going to school, coming home. Did you have any chores at home?

AK: Well, I just had to help take care of the home. I didn't do any outside work. There was no outside work to do.

BH: What were typical meals like? Did your mom fix Japanese food?

AK: I think we had more Japanese food, though we did... we invited American friend over, and we had a hard time trying to cook American food because we weren't used to it. Yeah, those were the days.

BH: Tell me about some of the activities you were in in high school.

AK: Well, they had such thing as pep club, we had that. And we had the Honors Society. I didn't go in much for sports, though I did go to see basketball games and football games.

BH: Was that part of the pep club?

AK: Yeah. And I used to drive the car and take my friends to different games. I remember doing that. That's a long time ago. [Laughs]

BH: Did you ever have opportunities to attend Japanese school?

AK: No. No school at all.

BH: So when you first went to school, did you speak any English? When you went to grade school, did you speak English?

AK: Yeah, I spoke mostly English. I didn't speak Japanese, that's what was wrong.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BH: Now how did you come to meet your husband?

AK: Well, it's a baishakunin marriage.

BH: So tell me how that happened.

AK: Well, Mr. Urata and Mr. Toyoka came over to our place with Kaz Kinoshita, and we seemed to hit it off all right at first. So I said okay, and he came to see me every week.

BH: And where was his family from?

AK: Gresham, Oregon.

BH: So it's a ways to go from Gresham to Nahcotta.

AK: It was. Yeah, he had to work hard on the farm, and I know he was tired. But he did come every week.

BH: How did you parents and his parents come to use these matchmakers? Did they know them from somewhere?

AK: I think that we knew the Toyokas, and then I'm not sure if he knew Mr. Urata, or maybe Mr. Toyoka asked Mr. Urata to join him, I don't know. I'm not sure about that.

BH: Was one of them from Seattle?

AK: No, they were from the farm area in Gresham.

BH: Now what was Kaz's full name?

AK: Kazuo Kinoshita.

BH: And he was from Gresham. What did his family do?

AK: Farming.

BH: And when were you two married?

AK: We were married on March 24th... let's see... 1940... over at the Buddhist church.

BH: In Portland?

AK: In Portland.

BH: And where did you live after you were married?

AK: I lived in the family home. See, I moved right in with the family, and so they had built an extension to the house, and we lived quite happily there.

BH: Was Kaz the oldest son in the Kinoshita family?

AK: Yes, he was.

BH: So that's why you moved in with them? I see, okay. And what was married life like?

AK: How was married life? Just fine.

BH: And Kaz continued to farm?

AK: Yes, he did.

BH: Did you work on the farm as well?

AK: I did.

BH: Did your parents approve of Kaz and you marrying into a farming family?

AK: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

BH: Now when you were living with your parents before you were married, there probably weren't very many Japanese events that you attended.

AK: No, I didn't.

BH: How about when you moved to Gresham?

AK: Well, there was a lot of things that you attend to. In Gresham they had their picnics, they had the G-T Hall where they had their different activities.

BH: That was the Gresham-Troutdale JACL?


BH: Yes.

AK: And, of course, they had the church meetings there, too. The ministers used to come, so it was called Ho wa Kai, and every family would take turns being a host. So each family would bring something to eat.

BH: So the Buddhist minister from the Portland church...

AK: Church, uh-huh, Portland Buddhist Church.

BH: ...would go. Okay. When you were growing up, did your parents teach you about Japanese history or culture or talk about that very much?

AK: No, he didn't; no, they didn't.

BH: Do you think that was different for Kaz because he grew up in a Japanese community?

AK: I think it was very different.

BH: What was it like for you to move in with your in-laws?

AK: Well, I don't know, they probably had a hard time getting used to me, because I didn't know Japanese very well. But we got along all right. At the end, the whole family was really a family.

BH: Tell me about the farm that Kaz worked on. What kind of things did the family grow?

AK: Oh, he grew everything, I think. All the berries: strawberry, raspberry, loganberries, and we had raspberries. And, of course, we had things like cabbage and cauliflower and sprouts. I had to learn to do all those things.

BH: What did you learn how to do?

AK: Learned how to pick sprouts or follow the tractor, cutting the broccoli, you know, we would cut it and toss in there. It's a wonder I learned.

BH: It sounds like hard work.

AK: Yeah, but I did it.

BH: Were his family, were his parents working on the farm as well?

AK: Yes, they were. They were all hardworking.

BH: And how long after you were married did you have your first child?

AK: Well, I can't remember if it was... but I lost the first two. And then when I had Jayne, in a way, it was good that we went to camp because I was able to rest there. I remember when we went to Idaho, I had to go on the sleeper because I had to be careful or I'd lose it.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

BH: So let's talk about the beginning of the war and what happened. Do you remember where you were when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

AK: Well, I know we were all working, and then Grandpa came running out, and he said, "Oh, something terrible happened." He said it in Japanese, though. And he said Pearl Harbor was bombed. And I remember we were all so, we couldn't say anything because it was such a shock. But we didn't think we would be relocated, though, at that time.

BH: Before you learned about relocation, what were you afraid of? What did you think might happen?

AK: I can't remember. I can't remember what we thought, but we knew something bad would happen, though.

BH: Did people treat you differently?

AK: Well, you know, for us, we were on the farm, so we didn't get out too much. But the menfolks, I think there were people that called them "Japs." But for the womenfolks, I guess we didn't hear much.

BH: Where did Kaz sell the produce?

AK: Hmm?

BH: Where did Kaz sell the produce from the farm?

AK: He went to the market, farmer's market, every morning. But they sure had to work hard. Because they would go about two o'clock in the morning, two-thirty in the morning, and they would come back home and start working. Didn't go to bed or rest until nighttime, and they worked hard.

BH: Did you ever go to the farmer's market with them?

AK: No, I didn't.

BH: So talking about the war, you were in shock when you heard about Pearl Harbor, and some of the menfolk had some things said about them. What happened within the community? Your father-in-law was pretty prominent in the Oregon Buddhist Church, and many of the community activists in the Japanese community were paid visits by the FBI. Did they go to your home?

AK: They did come. But he didn't have to go a special camp.

BH: Did you know that the FBI was going to come?

AK: Well, we were all afraid. I know we burned some things just to be careful. I don't think it was anything bad, but just to be on the safe side. Yeah, those were sad days. But the grandpa didn't have to go to any internment camp.

BH: Not to the Department of Justice camps. Were you aware of other families that were visited by the FBI?

AK: Yes. I guess that's all we talked about at that time. They weren't too many from the Gresham area that went to camp, though.

BH: What did the FBI agents do when they went to the house?

AK: Well, they just wanted to talk. They didn't ransack anything.

BH: And how did everybody else react when they showed up?

AK: Just worried and scared.

BH: Did Kaz or anybody, did you talk about it after they left?

AK: No. We're just typical Japanese, we don't.

BH: And were Kaz's brothers living with you at the same time?

AK: Yes, they were. And the second brother was already enlisted, and he was in the army. And my other brother, he joined the intelligence group, I guess.

BH: The MIS? The Military Intelligence Service?

AK: Uh-huh, after we went to camp.

BH: What were Kaz's brothers' names?

AK: Yoshio Kinoshita and Masao Kinoshita.

BH: And they lived with you and Grandma and Grandpa Kinoshita on the farm, okay. How did you learn about Executive Order 9066?

AK: I can't remember if he heard it from the market and then we knew we had to go. I guess somebody, he must have heard from the market and came home.

BH: And how did you and the family react to that?

AK: Oh, that was such a shock. But you couldn't hardly believe it until you actually leave, though. We all had to live in one room in the Portland Assembly Center.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

BH: How did you and your family prepare to go to the assembly center in North Portland? What about the farm?

AK: Well, we were very lucky, I think, compared to some people, because we had a very good friend, a dairy farmer, who had a daughter who was married, and they took over the farm for us. And so they took very good care of it until we came back. And when we came back, well, they just welcomed us home, you know. And they just left and let us have the farm. I hear that some people had trouble when their farms were not taken care of.

BH: How did you decide what to take with you when you had to report to the assembly center?

AK: I know. We had to take it in and out, in and out, because we knew we could only bring one suitcase.

BH: So what did you end up taking?

AK: Hmm?

BH: What did you end up putting in your suitcase?

AK: Well, not very... a few clothes. You know, I was pregnant, so I had to be in my pregnant clothes. But I didn't have to worry about any children, though, they weren't born yet.

BH: So how did you get from Gresham to the assembly center in North Portland?

AK: We all got on the bus. We met at one location, and we were taken there.

BH: What do you remember about leaving Gresham and the farm and the people you were used to seeing, your neighbors? What was that like?

AK: It was really sad. Well, you know, none of our friends discriminated us, but in Gresham, there was a lot of discrimination, though.

BH: Can you give me an example?

AK: No, not me. My husband probably could, because he would be the one who went out. We stayed home, mostly.

BH: I seem to recall some incidents when Kaz wasn't able to get waited on in a restaurant?

AK: Yeah, there are times like that.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

BH: So you took a bus to the Portland Assembly Center, and the assembly center used to be the Pacific International Livestock Exposition. What did you think when you first got there?

AK: It was quite dirty, I think. I remember we, it was hard to believe that we were in a, we were in a stall, weren't we?

BH: So what did it look like? What did it sound like? What did it smell like?

AK: It was a terrible smell. And it was wide open, so you know, the apartments were built side by side, but the top was all open. And so we could hear everything. That was a terrible time.

BH: Can you describe what was inside your stall for your family?

AK: Well, we were all crowded in there because my in-laws were living with us, and then we had one corner, my husband and I. And I remember they put a little curtain around for us. That was our room.

BH: So there was Grandma and Grandpa Kinoshita, and you and Kaz, and one of Kaz's brothers all in one stall?

AK: And Mary, uh-huh.

BH: Oh, and Mary, yes, okay. So how did you spend your time at the assembly center?

AK: I didn't do much, because I was pregnant and I had to be careful. So I know that I didn't join in any activities.

BH: And what did Kaz do to spend his time?

AK: Well, he worked as a fireman.

BH: So he helped with the drills and in case there were any fires, he would have been on call? We have a badge from the fire department at the Legacy Center now.

AK: You do?

BH: One of the original badges, yes. And how about your in-laws? What did they do?

AK: They didn't do anything in the camp except Mary, she worked as a nurse's aide. But there was no work for them. And then we weren't in there too long.

BH: You went in the spring, and by fall you were shipped elsewhere. And Mary is your sister-in-law, right?

AK: Uh-huh.

BH: Okay. What were the meals like at the assembly center?

AK: Well, they were about the same every time, you know. It isn't like they're home-cooked meals.

BH: Now you were at the assembly center for a few months. How did you learn that you were going to be going to a more permanent camp?

AK: My husband must have came home and tell us we were leaving. That was such a long time ago.

BH: Did you know where you were going?

AK: Well, we knew we were going to Idaho.

BH: Had you ever heard of Minidoka or Hunt, Idaho, before?

AK: No. And was it a shock when we got there.

BH: Oh, why was it such a shock?

AK: Well, it was so windy, and there was so much sandstorm.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

BH: And how do you get from the assembly center in North Portland to Hunt, Idaho?

AK: Well, I went on a sleeper because I was carrying Jayne, and I wanted to make sure that I didn't lose it.

BH: And were you able to see any of the scenery when you went by?

AK: No, the shades were down.

BH: What were your first impressions when you got to Minidoka? You talked about the sandstorms, what else did you see?

AK: It was so isolated. I think they had just built the camp, and I don't know, it seemed like it was so isolated. We made it more home-like later, though, ourselves.

BH: What did you do to make it more home-like?

AK: Well, there weren't very many things to work with, but then we did make them more home-like.

BH: Now, you arrived at Minidoka probably in September in the fall of that year?

AK: Yeah.

BH: Okay. And then when was Jayne, your first daughter, born?

AK: December 14th.

BH: In December. So what was it like to have your first baby in an internment camp?

AK: It was kind of sad to think that we were in an internment camp. But then when we went to the hospital, they wouldn't let us come home until two weeks, and we were in bed all that time. You can imagine when I first walked, got up and walked, it was so shaky. But it was nice to be able to go home.

BH: And how did you come to name your daughter Jayne?

AK: My husband named her after a movie star.

BH: After who?

AK: Jayne Mansfield.

BH: Jayne Mansfield, okay. Did you think about giving her a Japanese name?

AK: Yes. You know, we have a grandmother, so they would... let's see. What was her Japanese name? I forgot what her Japanese name, we never use it.

BH: Okay. So does she use it as her middle name?

AK: Hmm?

BH: Is that her middle name, her Japanese name?

AK: Yah.

BH: So what was life like in camp after you had Jayne?

AK: Well, you know, we had to go to a mess hall to eat, do our laundry in a common... even the bathroom, showers, was all in one place. And so, you know, we spent a lot of time in that, because we had to wash. I remember we didn't have a washing machine. Some people did, though, but we didn't have it so we had to do it by hand. I know when she got a little older, we'd take our kids with us, and the kids would play among each other.

BH: Washing diapers by hand?

AK: Yeah, wash the diapers by hand, everything by hand. Later on, though, some people got their washing machines, so they were able to use a washing machine, but not us.

BH: How did you get baby clothes for your new daughter?

AK: They did have a canteen there on Block 39. I can't remember if I took any with me or not. Probably did, I probably did.

BH: And did Kaz work at the camp?

AK: Well, he went to work over at Hazelton, which is not too far, because he used to walk home on the weekends and bring home some apples.

BH: So he worked on a fruit orchard outside of camp during the week and came home on the weekends?

AK: Uh-huh, and he would bring some apples. Sometimes, you know, we had to have food stamp in those days, so he would bring a little bit of meat or something, which is special for us.

BH: And you had ration books, right?

AK: Right.

BH: What was the food like in the mess hall?

AK: I don't know, it was always the same old thing, I guess. I know sometimes, especially if you have like smelt, when the smelt run in the Columbia, the garbage can would be full because people wouldn't eat any. I remember that.

BH: Do you have any other memories around food at camp?

AK: We didn't like the lamb there, either.

BH: We've heard from others who said they didn't like the mutton, and it took a long time before they would eat lamb again after coming out of camp.

AK: Yes.

BH: What did Mr. and Mrs. Kinoshita, your in-laws, do to spend their days?

AK: Oh, my grandma, I called her Grandma, she worked on the farm. She's a farmer, so it was natural for her. And then my father-in-law worked with the hens, poultry farm.

BH: So gathering eggs and having chickens to be able to eat at camp?

AK: They never brought anything home, no.

BH: Oh, okay. Were they paid for their jobs?

AK: Let's see. They were paid eleven dollar, was it? Doctors were paid nineteen dollars... was it eleven dollar?

BH: And so you could use that money to buy what you needed in the canteen, baby clothes. Did you ever think about or talk about the reason that all these Japanese people were in camp?

AK: Well, I know we thought it was very unfair, that we hadn't done, we didn't do anything wrong. But then we never said that to our children, though.

BH: You grew up in a couple of places as a child in Washington and then married into a family that lived in a community that was composed of more Japanese families. What was it like to suddenly be around all these other Japanese people?

AK: I know I had a hard time at first, because they didn't laugh in my face, but I'm sure they laughed behind our backs, because I spoke such broken Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

BH: You mentioned that you didn't talk to your kids about camp. Why do you think that was?

AK: I don't know. It's probably because it was such a sad occasion.

BH: Did they ever ask you about -- how did your kids learn about their parents and grandparents being in camp?

AK: I'm sure we must have heard... the conversation would come up, but we never sat down and talked about the camp days. It just didn't seem right to have lived in a camp, for just being Japanese. But the children, after they came back, though, they never mentioned to me that they had any prejudice. Seemed like they blended in well with the community. So I'm not sure... we didn't talk about it.

BH: Why do you think that is, that people on the whole did not talk about their experiences.

AK: I think that's because we're Japanese. We just want to keep it to ourselves. I think that the Sansei, they're more free with their, what they think and what they feel. They're more Americanized. But, see, we were more Japanese. You think about the camp days, it's just kind of sad, though. Because the children didn't know. They're along with the other children, and I think they were happy. And I don't think we made it any sad, you know, by telling them sad stories.

BH: What were your barracks like at Minidoka compared to the stalls at the assembly center? What did the barracks look like at Minidoka?

AK: Well, it wasn't too much different. But I think that by that time, we had the children and the children played together, we accepted what we had to go through.

BH: So if you were to walk in to... if you were to describe to your grandchildren what it looked like when you walked through the doorway of your barracks at Minidoka, what did it look like?

AK: Well, that's the trouble with us, I think. We never sit down and talk to them about it. Maybe it's just too sad to mention it, I don't know. I never have talked to my grandchildren about our camp days. But there were some good times, we made some good friends.

BH: What did your barracks look like when you first got there? Was there furniture? What was in there?

AK: No. I think most of us used different apple boxes, but we managed all right.

BH: Apple boxes for chairs and tables?

AK: Uh-huh.

BH: Were their cots provided?

AK: We did have cots, yeah, we did have cots. But it was just a plain army cot, I guess.

BH: What were the winters like?

AK: It was pretty cold, because it did have, we have snow, we have sandstorms. I know when the sandstorm came, everybody come dashing in because it blows so hard.

BH: How did you keep warm in the winter with all the snow and living in a building that wasn't insulated?

AK: Well, I guess we just accepted it. I guess we had coal to burn? I forgot what we used to keep ourselves warm.

BH: Did you have a potbelly stove?

AK: Hmm?

BH: Did you have a potbelly stove?

AK: Yeah, that was what we had, I guess.

BH: And Jayne was born in Minidoka, and then who was your second child?

AK: Cheryl.

BH: Cheryl. And was she also born at camp?

AK: Yes, she was. I hate to say that two kids were born in camp, but they were.

BH: Did they ever talk about being born in camp to you?

AK: No, they don't, and I don't talk to them about it either. And I don't tell the grandkids, maybe it's a good idea to talk to them about it a little, but I haven't. If they see this tape, maybe they'll realize what it was like.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

BH: Okay, let's talk some more about your experiences in camp. Two of your children, your two daughters were born in the camp hospital. What was that hospital like?

AK: Well, I know that, to be sure, I think the reason why they kept us there, and for some reason they kept us in bed for two weeks, use a bed pan and all, and then after two weeks we were ready to come home. But you know, our legs were so shaky, I remember. I suppose they were just being careful, but they were, if you compare it to nowadays where they come home almost the next day.

BH: So this was a hospital within Minidoka camp.

AK: Yes, it was.

BH: And were the doctors and nurses Japanese?

AK: Yeah, they were Japanese. Well, at least I had all Japanese doctors.

BH: And so it looked and felt like being in the hospital that would be here in Portland?

AK: Well, not quite. [Laughs] Not quite, but then, it served its purpose.

BH: So in what ways was it different?

AK: Well, it didn't have all the fancy things that you'd see in a regular hospital. Maybe that's the reason why we were all kept in bed to make sure that everything goes right.

BH: Now did you or any other family members have any other occasions to go to the hospital there?

AK: Yeah, my husband had, he was home on a visit. He works outside, and he was home, and he had a stomachache, so we called the ambulance, and the ambulance took him to the hospital. He didn't come home and he didn't come home, so I finally was getting quite worried. And after a whole day, someone came to tell me that he already had an appendicitis operation, and I was so upset. I would have liked to be there. But he was okay.

BH: And tell me about your neighbors in camp. The Kinoshita family had one barracks, and do you remember anything about your neighbors?

AK: Yes. There was one especially that I'll never forget. He was a bachelor, and he fell asleep while he was smoking in bed. And so he, his bed caught on fire, and he came to our apartment. And we had left, I had left Cheryl at home in her bed, and someone shouted, "Fire, fire," so we came running out. And when I came home, I could see the smoke over her bed. It was just floating over her bed, and oh my god. But I just ran out. And you know, they formed a bucket parade. It wasn't such a big fire, but I think the camp walls were made out of something that burned faster, and so they put the fire out soon. And the man that went to sleep was burned all across his back.

BH: Your daughter was okay?

AK: Yeah.

BH: What other memories do you have with camp?

AK: Well, I remember my husband came home to visit, and then he had a stomachache, so they took him to the hospital. And they didn't come back and they didn't come back, and finally toward the evening I found out he had an appendicitis operation. Gee, I told you that.

BH: What did Mr. and Mrs. Kinoshita, Grandma and Grandpa Kinoshita do during the day? They worked on the farm and the hens, did they get involved in any of the other activities, the flower arranging or furniture making, anything like that?

AK: No, they didn't. I think they spent all their time with Jayne. They would come over and visit with her.

BH: They had the time then to spend time with their grandchildren.

AK: Yeah, they did. I know that Grandpa used to come every morning before he went to work, he would come and say, "Shukudai ikimasu." And then when he'd come home he'd say, "Kaerimashita," to her, to Jayne.

BH: And what does that mean?

AK: Huh?

BH: What does that mean? What did he say?

AK: Said, "I'm going to work now. Grandpa's going to work now." And then when he'd come he'll say, "Grandpa kaerimashita," that means he came home. She was spoiled.

BH: Now your own family was still living on the Long Beach peninsula when the war broke out. So they didn't go to Minidoka, where did they go?

AK: They go to Tule Lake. But when they... I don't know if they evacuated some people, but they did move to Minidoka. My dad moved to Minidoka, and my brother's family moved to Minidoka.

BH: So because they were on the coast, were they evacuated a little bit earlier? Did they have to go to a different assembly center?

AK: No, they went directly to Tule Lake.

BH: After the "loyalty questionnaire" there were several families who moved to Minidoka, and that's what happened to your parents and brother?

AK: Yeah.

BH: Did you know that they were coming?

AK: I can't remember if I did, but then there they were. My brother and he had a family, he had four girls altogether. And you know, the Hobaras were there, and Okazakis were there, Kondos were there, all the children used to play together, I remember. I don't think the children felt anything, do you? I don't think that... they were more into play, and they never thought of being in camp.

BH: Depending on their age, and for some it was an experience to be around other people who looked like them and had some of the same cultural values. But for the older ones it was more difficult.

AK: I guess it probably would be, yes.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

BH: How did you find out that the war was ending?

AK: I can't remember that. I think I remember somebody came home and told us that the war was over.

BH: And how, what was the reaction in camp?

AK: Oh, everybody... well, it was kind of hard to believe after so long. You wondered if you'd go home. That's the first thing that came to our minds.

BH: And people left at different times sometimes. What was that like for your family?

AK: My family, my father-in-law and mother-in-law and the daughter went home first. And I don't know if Uratas family and the Kato family, do you know them in Gresham? They had a berry farm, and so they went right to work for them. But then two kids and my husband and I came home later, because he was working outside. And so when he was ready to come home, he picked us up and we came home on the pickup.

BH: How did your husband get a pickup?

AK: Well, he had... it's his, he had it sent.

BH: What were your expectations about going back home?

AK: I know I was worried. But then we didn't feel it as much though, because the people that took care of the farm were so welcoming, and they had, the farm was not taken care of because they're not really a farmer, and there were a lot of weeds. But it was nice to come home to somewhere you could be safe.

BH: What was the drive like going from Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho, back to Gresham, Oregon.

AK: It was quite far, I remember.

BH: And you had two little kids.

AK: Yeah, we made it, though.

BH: Did you stop along the way anywhere?

AK: Yes, we did.

BH: Where did you stop?

AK: Well, that I can't remember, but I just remember coming home.

BH: And what was that like when you saw the farm and the house again?

AK: Well, you know, the older folks and my sister-in-law Mary were already home. So we just came home and there they were, and we were happy to be home.

BH: Now your neighbors who were the dairy farmers, their daughter and her husband moved into your house while you were away at camp. So how did you work on moving back in?

AK: Well, before they were able to go back right to the farm, the farm was, we had an upstairs, so they let us use upstairs. Well, the folks and Mary were living in the boy camp, and then we moved upstairs. And then when they were ready to move, we didn't have any trouble. They welcomed us back, so we were happy to... I remember being happy to be home.

BH: Tell me about the boy house. We've learned about many farm families having boy houses. Who lived in the boy house?

AK: Nobody lived in it. When we have young people that come to pick berries, they used to batch in those.

BH: Did most of your neighbors in Gresham come back home after the war?

AK: I think so. The Katos both came back, then the Ouchidas came back. I think most of them came back. I don't know if there are any that lived back east. There are some that went back east, though, weren't there?

BH: Did you or your family encounter any incidents of prejudice or discrimination after the war?

AK: Well, we didn't because we were home. But then I think maybe the menfolks would have some. In Gresham, there was some prejudice, I know, they didn't want us to come back. But if you have friends, see, the friends, it doesn't make any difference to them.

BH: There were some people in Gresham who didn't want the Japanese Americans to return to Gresham. How did you know how they felt, and how did you deal with that?

AK: See, I didn't see any of that because we were home all the time. But I'm sure my husband did. On the whole, though, we were lucky. You hear of people trashing their homes, and we didn't have any of that.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

BH: How old were Jayne and Cheryl when you came home to Gresham?

AK: Let's see. You must have been about, she must have been about... they're only a year and a half apart, so if one was two, then the other would be three and a half, wouldn't they?

BH: So they didn't go to school in camp, they ended up going to school in Gresham.

AK: Uh-huh.

BH: So you had two daughters after a couple of miscarriages. Both were born in camp.

AK: Uh-huh, and then I had a son after I came back.

BH: And a son after you returned to Gresham. Okay, so let's review. The first one's name?

AK: Is Jayne Reiko.

BH: Uh-huh. And then the second one?

AK: Is Cheryl Sonoye.

BH: And your son?

AK: Kenneth Tom. "Tom" was after the grandpa.

BH: After Grandpa Kinoshita?

AK: Yes, Grandpa.

BH: And what about your parents? After they went from Washington to Tule Lake over to Minidoka, where did they resettle?

AK: Oh, they, we went back to the coast.

BH: To the oyster farm?

AK: Uh-huh.

BH: And do you know much about their experiences returning?

AK: No, I don't. I don't. I guess I was too busy taking care of my own family.

BH: It's very typical in Japanese culture for the eldest son and his family to live with his parents as you did. After the war and you were all back in the house, in the farmhouse, did what was normal before the war resume again for you?

AK: Yes. Well, by that time, the... well, the second son was married. Then, of course, they all got married, you know. And so at the end there was only Grandma and Grandpa and our own family. We built a home, though, in 1940. So we had lots of room then.

BH: And did Grandma and Grandpa Kinoshita continue to work on the farm?

AK: Yes, they did. Grandma, when she was even ninety years old, she would say, "Well, I think I'll go outside for a while to get fresh air." Then we'd look out the window and she's hoeing away.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

BH: When you returned to Gresham, did you become re-involved in any activities with the Japanese community?

AK: Well, we had gone to the church, and of course we'd gone to the Gresham JACL, and then we had a bowling league which we belonged to. Mas and Ida Suzuki were our bowling partners for thirty years.

BH: And where did you bowl?

AK: Reckwood Bowling. And then it changed to Rose City.

BH: Was this a Nisei league?

AK: Yes, it was. We really had fun doing it. We would leave our children, Mary and her husband would bring her kids over, and Yosh and they would bring their kids, and my kids would have to babysit all of them with Grandma. [Laughs]

BH: And that was your weekly outing.

AK: Weekly outing.

BH: What kinds of activities did you do with the Gresham-Troutdale JACL?

AK: We did have some dancing lessons. Of course, we used to play pinochle together, and we had picnics. We don't have that type of thing now, but when we were going, we had picnics and they would have different things at the hall at Gresham. They don't have that anymore either.

BH: Where was the G-T Hall?

AK: It was on Stark Street. Don't ask me the address.

BH: That's okay. And were you involved in any of the other clubs or kens?

AK: Hiroshima-ken? Yeah.

BH: So what was that about?

AK: It was just, seemed like it was just social. We would get together, especially for New Year's.

BH: And these were people whose families were originally from Hiroshima.

AK: They were. And my husband was president of that, Hiroshima, for a while. All those were good days. I think they still have Hiroshima club, but I just don't join, go to the different activities.

BH: And how would you compare what Gresham was like after the war compared to Gresham before the war?

AK: Well, I know Gresham before the war was more like a Japanese community, you know. I think after the war, well, they still had different things. They had the picnics and all, before, but now, I think right now we have no hall. And I don't go to any of their meetings.

BH: GT and Portland JACL, several chapters in our area, were involved in the redress movement. Do you recall being a part of that or knowing about that?

AK: Well, my husband may have, but then, I didn't.

BH: Where did your children go to school?

AK: They went to Gresham grade school, and then they went to Gresham High School, and then they went to Oregon college.

BH: University of Oregon, okay.

AK: And my son went to Portland State.

BH: And how many grandchildren do you have?

AK: I have, let's see, I have two girls and two boys.

BH: And their names?

AK: Jeff and David are the boys, and the girls' names are Sara and Lauren.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

BH: Now you've said that you haven't told your family about your wartime experiences, but that you're doing this for your family, you're participating in this interview for your family. Tell me more about your feelings on this.

AK: Well, it's a wonder I'm doing this, for one thing. [Laughs] I realize that Jeff, the oldest one, have asked me about different things, and I didn't realize they would be so interested, you know, about what we went through. So I guess it's a good thing that we are doing this.

BH: How do you think the wartime experience affected your parents and Kaz's parents, the Issei?

AK: You know, they never, they never expressed themselves. You know, the young people now, they say things as it is. But the older generation, I think, even if they feel it, they just don't talk about it.

BH: You had an opportunity to go back, or go to and visit Japan. What was that like for you?

AK: It was nice. I was only there for ten days, though, so I didn't see as much as I did. But I went to see my brother's family who was left in Japan. He had married, he went to college, and he had married and had two girls and a boy. I saw the two, one boy and one girl. The other girl was working in the city so she had to come, she was... but it was nice to see them.

BH: What was your first impression when you got to Japan?

AK: I liked it. And it was good to know that this is where your folks came from.

BH: Where in Japan did you visit?

AK: I went to Osaka, and I went to Hiroshima. I went to see my mother's... I mean, my mother's side and my father's side, and I had just gone there, the brother of my mother-in-law had just passed away, so I wasn't able to meet him. But I have a, or Kaz has a cousin that's on the father's side that came to America. He worked, so he used to come over and see us all the time, so we went to see him. I guess it was kind of nice. I just wonder how they took me because I wasn't very good at speaking Japanese. But they took me as-is, I guess.

BH: What are your hopes for your grandchildren and future generations?

AK: You know, I think they'll do just fine. They're all doing something important to me, I'm proud of them.

BH: What makes you proud of them?

AK: Hmm?

BH: What makes you proud of your grandchildren?

AK: What makes me proud of them? For one thing, they all take good care of me. They always write to me, they telephone me, and they come to see me, you know. And they're doing very well, so I'm happy for them.

BH: How do you think your wartime experiences affected who you are and what you think about the world?

AK: That's a hard question to answer. I know it didn't seem fair at first, and it was hard to... well, if that had been any longer and the children had to go to school there, I think I would have felt very bad, badly. I think we did all right, though.

BH: We've talked about you living in different communities in Washington where there weren't very many Japanese people, to moving to a farming community in Gresham where there were, and then your wartime experiences. You've led a very rich life. Looking back on all of that as well as looking towards the future, what do you think is important in life?

AK: You mean besides the family?

BH: Including family. What's important?

AK: I think the most important thing is the family, and the family's future. I think they're coping real well. They're all making... what do you say? They're all doing well, and I'm happy for them. I could die any time and I'll be happy. [Laughs]

BH: We've talked about a lot of things including three or four generations. Is there anything that you'd like to add or anything that I didn't ask you about that you'd like to bring up?

AK: I think we... haven't we covered about everything?

BH: Maybe we have. I want to thank you very much, Ami. It's been an honor to talk to you and hear about your stories.

AK: I enjoyed talking to you, too. Thank you.


AK: Well, I've lived here ten years. I came in with my husband. He'd been living in a different hospital, you know, and I wanted us to live together for a while. And so we moved in here, but he only lived four months afterwards. And I had a choice of living here and going to live in another apartment, and I decided I'd stay here. And they've been like a family to me. One of my best friends are living right nearby, and we love to go to Blazer games. [Laughs] In fact, I think everybody thinks we're kind of crazy about them. [Laughs]

BH: What other activities are you involved with here at Powell Valley?

AK: Well, they have all kinds of crafts. And I never did any kind of artwork before, but gosh, they've taught me so many things, you know. I learned how to make those fluffy scarves, and I made little blankets for the grandkids. I don't know, it's been a full life. Of course, I like to play bingo, too. [Laughs] I don't play poker, but they have poker here.

BH: And before Kaz became ill, I understand that you cared for your in-laws.

AK: Yes, I did. My father-in-law was, he was only seventy when he died, but then Grandma lived to be almost a hundred. Four months more to go and she would have been a hundred. But I did take care of her the last two years, though. But I was happy to do that because they took me in when I was... for them I must have been completely different. [Laughs] And we became close, and I'm very thankful for that. I always wonder what they thought of me when I first came here. That's about it.

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