Photo of Asako Tokuno, Blakes Beach, 1941
Photo of Meriko Maida
Junko, Meriko, and Asako
Asako Tokuno and Meriko Maida grew up with their younger sister Junko Kimura, their parents, and grandparents running the family nursery before World War II in Richmond, California. They describe the demanding life of working a nursery in that period, and growing up as Japanese Americans in Richmond, California. They each discuss their family's summer travels and exploring California by fishing and camping, and their father's love of the outdoors.
Asako describes briefly attending UC Berkeley and then being forced immediately after Pearl Harbor to move to Half Moon Bay, then to Tanforan detention camp, and then to Topaz incarceration camp. She describes the structure of Topaz, working as a nurse at the hospital, and education.
Meriko Maida discusses her youth in Richmond, including her mother's cooking, transporting flowers, playing youth basketball with the Richmond Jinxes, Japanese school, Japanese movies, and her 1937 trip to Japan. She also talks about her time in the nursery, her activities at school in Richmond, and other aspects of her youth.
Unfortunately, tape three audio failed after the interview and could not be transcribed, thus we are missing the major discussion by Asako and Meriko of camp life. We had intended to re-record this portion of the interview, but sadly Asako fell ill and passed away before we could complete the interview.
In the final part of the interview, the sisters recall their experiences transferring out of camp when youngest sister Junko received a scholarship to the University of Rochester in New York. Asako and Meriko both worked while their sister Junko attended the university. Asako got engaged, moved to Minnesota and found work there while her husband was training in the Military Intelligence School. Asako recounts her travel to Japan after the war to be with her husband, who was part of the US military occupation, and then her return home with her first son, who was born in Japan.
Asako Tokuno was also interviewed for the PBS documentary The War by Ken Burns.
Remembering our Local Japanese Heritage: The El Cerrito and Richmond Flower Growers includes photos and other archival documents referencing the Maida family.