Quite sometime ago, someone in my family gave to me an old book of matches that was regularly distributed via the Mikado - Garage. The address thereon is :  312 N. W. 3rd Ave Portland Oregon Prop. -Jimmie Akagi BR 2095  

I went to this address and found that there is building in that general area that looked just like a picture that I have of the garage. I asked that my uncle send a email with the attached picture of my Grandfather and Great Grandfather standing in front of the Mikado station. (black and white photo) Please see the attached photo of the garage that I speculate is the garage. The other picture should be coming shortly. Thanks again for your time. I appreciate it.   James Akagi  


From Claude Morita

James,  We can tell you a lot about the "famous" Akagi Garage since that was our favorite stopping off place when we took "vacations" in Portland. We lived in Hood River, Oregon until 13May 1942. It seems to me that if we took any trips to Portland, they were always based at the Akagi garage. We know many people from Portland now, but that is because of our time in Minidoka.  

But before I begin to tell you my story, I would like to ask you something about your family. There were always two Akagi-no-ojisan (if you are not familiar with Japanese, that means there were two "uncles" or men who we were honored to call uncle) at the garage. They were, in my memory bank, father and son. When you say "Jitsua," is that an accurate transliteration? Japanese names are based on kanji, as you know, and they are unique, difficult to read (even by Japanese). It is important because a search of historical records has to have accurate kanji and their readings.

Since Japanese (Issei) could not own property in the U.S., a record search will not turn up Akagi Garage if your grandfather was not a Nisei. I did not know either oji-san as Jitsua; I would never had deigned to call them by their first names. They were like family. I do not recall ever having met the wives of either. But I am sure my older sisters would have met them.  

My younger brother, Jr, and I loved going to Akagi Garage because they had "kiddy cars" that we could go pedaling around the block in (1930s). The garage had two entrances to main streets (I do not know what their names are, but if I had the time, I'm sure I could locate the garage). Wide sidewalks enclosed the entire block so we pedaled as long as we could, as many times as we could.

The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center's "Nihonmachi: Portland's Japantown Remembered," with a sketch map of places shows Mikado Garage (Akagi) on Third Ave between N.W. Everett and N.W. Flanders and facing only Third Ave. I think that sketch is wrong.  Mikado Garage, with cars being repaired all the time, definitely had two entrances, each facing main streets. And just beyond one street was the river, probably the Wiliamette. So if the street numbering began at the river, Mikado Garage faced either first and second avenues or second and third as located by the Legacy Center.  

I believe the Akagi's emigrated from Okayama Prefecture as did our parents. One of my older sisters, Fumiko, spent a great deal of time in Okayama so that between her and my own research of records in Japan, we would probably be able to find Akagi relatives in Japan.   Please give us a bit more about your family and antecedents. It will help both your research and ours.

From: Don Akagi,

August 2004


My nephew. James Akagi, had a typo in his e-mail message, my dad's name,
is Jitsuta Akagi, and my grandfather was Kenjiro Akagi. My parents often
spoke of traveling to Hood River on visits to friends, maybe that was your
family. My father was born in Okayama, and migrated to the US when he was
about 16 years old, he was the only son. Ojiisan migrated first, and then
sent for his wife and then later my dad. I suspect that our family was not
of very high caste, i.e. not samuraii. I recall seeing very intricate tatoos
on my grandfather that he tried to keep covered. I understand that records
of samuraii families were kept, but not the lower classes, so I doubt that
you'll be able to find much on our family.

Thanks helping my nephew search for his roots.

Don Akagi

From Claude Morita

August 2004


Letters like yours are what keeps me going. Thanks so much for responding
and for filling in many blank spaces.

My brother, Jr, and I must have been making free use of expensive toys that
your father and grandfather had gotten
and kept maintained for you. I think now that you must be younger than Jr
and I and must have felt "bullied" when we
showed up. If you had been our age (I am 76 yrs), there would have been
ownership issues and who had the first
turn around the block. There never were and I often wondered who had the
luxury of using those kiddy cars that seem
to be sitting there, just waiting for us to use. Thanks very much for
allowing country boys for use them.

I think that "classes," as a category for defining people, conflict with the
sense of the American Creed. Japan definitely
had classes in feudal times, but have little meaning in America where
classes are more on the basis of economic standing
where vast discrepancies exist. For Issei, too, there was a need for
overcoming the discrepancies that they fled from, in
a sense, to get to America.

Any writing that you had seen on our website regarding the Morita lineage is
there for helping Sansei and Yonsei retain
a sense of their heritage. I admit that in my writing, I tend to
over-emphasize the theme a bit, because I want my nieces
and nephews and their children to remember their roots that will encourage
them to stand up straighter or to take what
is there and make it better.

Your parents and grandparents made a great contribution, as most all Issei
did, in helping Americans realize that
there is a different way of looking at life. Please help in making the rest
of America understand how significant that
contribution was. I am trying to explain my version of it in what I am
trying to complete.

My research takes me to Okayama often, but not as often as I would like.
Homer and Michiko Hachiya are there
and I need to see them again. My sister, Fumiko, has a memory bank filled
with Morita crises and connections.

I need as much input from you as possible.


From Don Akagi

August 2004

Claude,   My nephew James, has asked that I send you some old photos of the Mikado garage, I've included some others as well.  

I'm 66 years old, so that you must be 10 years older than me. That would make you a 'Big Boy' in my eyes and so I must have been honored to have you take an interest in my toys. Depending on how old you were on these visits, I may not even have been born. I recall some other children in the area named Hajime and Minoru, they were older and so they may have been closer to your age, do you remember them? I believe that we lived at the Teikoku Hotel.  

I think that what you are doing is great! Our Sansei and Yonsei need to know their great grandfathers history. I can give you a brief sketch of my dad's history. My grandfather, Kenjiro Akagi, worked at menial jobs at sawmills, iron smelters, and railroads, and yet was able save enough money to send for his wife, Kinu, and child. My dad was 16 years old when he arrive in this country and worked in steel mills(he had scars on his back where molten steel splashed on him) and then later, in auto repair shops. He was encouraged to go to school to 'learn the trade' in an industry of the future, the auto industry. He then rode a motorcycle from Tacoma to Kansas City to attend Sweeney Trade School, before the days of paved highways, some of the roads were still dirt trails. When he finally arrived in KC, he found a job as a houseboy to support himself while he went to school. His proficiency in the English language was still very poor, but he applied himself and graduated from Sweeney. He married my mother around 1928. She had graduated from the College of the Pacific in Tacoma as a registered nurse, I believe she was the first Nisei to become an RN.  


From Betty Shibayama, Oct. 31, 2000:

There are a few people in the picture that I cannot identify, but possibly, Ruth or your dad (Paul ) can.  The man the furthest to the right is Mr. Akagi.  Don't know the couple to the left of him and the man on the furthest left of the picture. 

(One of these men might be Mr. Sarai, who had previously taken Fumiko to Japan with him.  Is that correct, Ruth?) Oji-chan had written the names of the people in Japanese on the dark gray portion of the folder.  I will ask our Japanese gardener to read it for us.

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 1, 2000

That picture came out well.  I think the man next to Mom is Mr Sarai but, Betty, he didn't take Fumiko to Japan...it was  another man who is related to us .....very tall thin man, I can't remember his name right now (I  am taking Ginkyo Biloba) WHO IS RELATED TO Mom...the couple by Mr Akagi is a relative of Mr. Sarai , I think, who together with Mr. Sarai owned a noodle factory in Portland...who is grandpa carrying...you Betty?  That must be Flora standing in front...brings back memories!! Ruth

From Paul Morita, Nov. 2, 2000

I think the man standing next to mom is Sarai. He used to run a tofu-ya in Portland in the thirties. He wasa related to mom so it stands to reason  mom would be next to him. All I remember, he had a wide face.

From Betty Shibayama, Nov. 2, 2000

Yes, Grandpa is carrying me and that is Flora in the front. Did you notice Jr. and Claude and their guns and holsters?  Looks like Jr's is hanging from his neck. See Fuji-san painted on the garage wall?

From Betty Shibayama, Nov. 2, 2000

I guess, I was wrong, Stirling. The picture was taken by the noodle factory.  Is that right, Ruth?

From Paul Morita, Nov. 2, 2000

I wonder where I got the sport coat. Yep I'm the one in the middlle. Look at Jr. with the gun holster around his neck. I don't know where the picture was taken, but I think it was in Portland. Could have been the wall of Akagi's garage, with Fujisan picture on it. I went looking for the garage in 1995 at the Portland reunion, but it was torn down and it  was a parking lot. I remember the Japanese restaurant across the street from Akagi's garage, Dad and I used to eat there, boy what a treat, we used to get roast pork and gravy and mashed potatoes for $.35. That was before inflation.

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 3, 2000

I never noticed the guns and holsters till you mentioned it!! But the wall is not Akagi's garage...it is Mr. Sarai's noodle factory wall....I don't know what the occasion was that we were all in Portland...wish Dorothy would get in on some of this....I know she is in Japan at this time but other occasions!!  Ruth 

From Paul Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

I'm trying to figure out how the entire family arrived Portland to take the picture. I know we had a '27 or '29 Buick four door sedan at that time.

Grandpa would back out of the garage going downhill then shift to low gear and pop the clutch without hitting the brakes. That used to break the rear axle. That's the way grandpa used to drive. One time Grandpa and I were going to Hood River from Pine Grove. We took the loop highway. He delighted going around a blind corner on the left hand side, good thing there wasn't any traffic at that time. I think he used to do that to get a reaction out of me!!

From Claude Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

We used to double up with somebody else. There were at least two cars in our caravan. It was a big holiday usually. I like to think it was the Fourth of July, but it might have been a different day. I remember those flags, about five of them, clamped around the radiator cap. It was a pretty neat experience with flags flying and a caravan of cars (maybe only two).

Jr and I would be very alert and scared when we passed the old haunted house on the drive to Portland. We'd all ask each other if we saw anything. I remember it was somewhere the road and terrain sort of flattened out. It was a deserted house and everybody seemed to know it was haunted.

I'm finally looking at the Nikkei Legacy stuff they handed out at the reunion. There's Mikado Garage (Akagi) right there. It was quite a community, according to the map.Paul, where is the Williamete, next to First Ave?

That email address they give for the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is hokey. I can't get any where. Stirling's Web page is so much easier to get to.

That is Mr. Sarai on the extreme left. The senior Akagi is on the right. I don't remember the couple next to Mr. Akagi. Mr. Sarai is also the fellow who made the rock garden for us at Tule Lake. He spent a lot of time doing it and I was so fascinated by the Crown Point replica that somebody made. I used to spend hours just getting down there and imagining the Columbia and the scenery

From Diana M. Cole, Nov. 4, 2000

What a stupid way to behave!  He obviously never took driving instruction.Was there such a thing back then?

From Claude Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

Diana, you kill me! I've had my great belly laugh for the day.

It's a good question. It requires a book to explain. Paul, you'll have to explain what kind of "instructions" we got in driving.

Grandpa was among the best examples of non-logic behind the wheel.

In front of Mikado Garage

From Paul Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

Grandpa used to drive on the left side of the road to get a reaction from me. I could tell because he was smiling all the while. I think he was a showoff.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

Driver education was not available at that time. We got all our practice driving on our own roads, I mean our private drives  and along the irrigation ditches.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 4, 2000

Claude, I guess you didn't go on the city tour with Stirling myself and Paul-Eirik. Tim and Ivor Nii went too. The Wiliamete was next to the park where they had the stones with the information on the camps, yes it parallels First Avenue.

I don't remember the haunted house on the drive to Portland. I remember the five flags on the Buick radiator cap, that was nice. Betty S. Flora and Jr.are at the Chicago reunion this weekend. They asked Jr. to sing at the mixer, so he couldn't pass that up.

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 5, 2000

Grandpa use to go down Ehrck's Hill and put the car in neutral.....gads,. we could have been killed....and when he drove the car up Ehrck's hill taking us to school (occasionally) the car couldn't make it so we would hop out and put blocks of wood behind the rear wheel....it's a wonder we all weren't killed!! Ruth

From Paul Morita, Nov. 5, 2000

I remember getting out of the car to block the wheels as we were going up the Ehrck hill. I don't remember if dad or grandpa couldn't get the car in gear or what but it was a life saving event!! Talk about living dangerously!!!

From Paul Morita, Nov. 5, 2000

I don't remember if Dot drove or not. I know Ruth didn't drive till she came to Chicago. I remember taking the drivers test in hilly Hood River, boy that was some experience with the lousy brakes on those old cars.

From Claude Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Paul, you've still got to explain to Diana how we all learned to drive. She will not believe it, I'm sure. then again, Diana, did you drive in Nova Scotia?

From Claude Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

I remember that too. But I don't know if I did that or not. You could tell when the car was not going to make it so you jumped off early with the blocks. It got to be pretty routine, as I remember.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

I already explained how we learned to drive, up and down the farm roads, along the irrigation canals. Remember on the Ehrck property we used to eat the mushrooms that grew on the willow stumps along the irrigation canal.

Betty how did you do at the reunion? I mean gaming wise.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Yea, talking about living  under conditions like that. I don't know how grandpa got his drivers license!! He must have paid someone!!

From Claude Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Come on, Paul. You were the first to learn how to drive. You were probably driving around on county roads when you were 12 or 13.

We all learned because the truck was used in the orchards and the fields.

There was a great cut down truck that was used for a tractor. In cultivating or even plowing, it was pretty boring because you would set the thing to run steady at about 3 mph and you would jump off to do something so Jr and I used to jump on the thing and act like we drove.

I'm sure that Dorothy and Ruth drove the truck in orchards and fields as well. A six year old could do it.

From Claude Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Eating mushrooms? I don't remember that. Pop used to warn us not to eat any mushrooms because you couldn't tell the poisonous ones from the good ones. How could you tell which ones were good?

From Claude Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Agreed. He must have arranged for someone to take the test for him. Someone who looked like him. You know, haoles think that all orientals look alike.

But seriously he could drive well if he wanted to. I remember many a time he used to take us younger ones, including Katchie, to the movies in Hood River. We never had an accident. By the time we were headed back from the movies we would all be asleep. We never had an accident.

I even remember him driving to Portland. That's got to be an accomplishment. That drive up to Crown Point was sort of challenging even this year for me. Those roads are so narrow.

It's really a wonder that you drove that truck with the apples without a serious accident. Thank God.

I'm definitely putting that in the book.

From Diana M. Cole, Nov. 6, 2000

I'm not sure who you are writing about but I think driving regulations were less strict than they are now.

If you mean ojichan, than I would say that he was abusing Paul--if he knew better. Or is this a machismo thing?  Maschismo is largely abuse anyway. (Wayne is just the opposite. He hates driving and makes it crummy experience for everyone who rides with him. Everyone else is a moron on the road except himself.)

Sometimes men act so stupid. I'm also becoming less enamored of the way Japanese and JA's raise their sons.

Men are not better than women.  Maybe if Grandma drove, you guys wouldn't have been so terrified.

From Diana M. Cole, Nov. 6, 2000

I drove in Nova Scotia.  I also drove a pickup truck in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.  Paul never believed me.  It didn't have power steering or automatic transmission either.

Aaron drove the tractor on the farm.

I had to drive the same pickup truck in NS when we would get stuck and Wayne would pull it out with the tractor.  I was terrified because if I didn't move along with him the tractor would lift up.

Once Aaron drove that red pickup right into the corner of the house.  We teased him about that for a long time.

From Diana M. Cole, Nov. 6, 2000

There are many ways to die.  Think of all the missiles pointed at the US and we don't even think about it on a day to day basis.

Melville talks about the whale lines that would whip around the fishermens' heads as they harpooned the whale.  Often the whales would dive down into the sea taking the rope with them.  The rope would be coiled up under the men's legs and whip around their legs and heads.  You can imagine what happend to some of those sailors.

Today you could die in your own house. One guy we knew in Toronto died while trying to fix a curtain rod above a window. He slipped and knocked his head on the back of the chair he was standing on.  Broke his neck.

We are all going to die sometime. I keep thinking that I want my ashes scattered on the Sierras that surround LakeTahoe. The idea of being put in the ground under a slab of metal with my name on it doesn't feel right.

BTW, there are three plots left in the cemetery where Dad is buried. Who wants them?  One word of caution:  from a Feng Shui aspect those plots are not good for your grandchildren, because they are low lying.  If you want your body buried there, you should make sure to cremate it.  This way your grandchildren will not be negatively affected by the position of your bones.

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 6, 2000

Are you kidding?  Dad would not let me drive...said I was too nervous....when I think of it now...he criticized me all the time and made me a nervous wreck....I learned to drive in Skokie when Candy was learning...from a private company ....so I learned to drive in the 60's...Ruth

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 6, 2000

Whenever we went to Portland, Dad would borrow a car from one of the Hiratas in Parkdale as our car could not make it but I can't remember why we were all there including grandma!!  Hiratas were very nice to us....thank goodness there were more than one brother in the Hirata family...Ruth

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 6, 2000

Wonder what he sang!!Yup, we put those flags on the radiator cap on the cars for the Fourth...cute idea, I wonder why they gave it up...yeah, they don't have radiator caps any more!!  Ruth

From Ruth Hidaka, Nov. 6, 2000

Maybe they didn't require drivers license in those days!!  Ruth

From Junior Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

the man behind Claude is without question my dad. The man onthe left (extreme) is Mr . Sarai. And Mr. Sarai was not the man who took Fumiko back to Japan. Mr Ohara , an uncle to some body,  not in the photo, is the one who took  Fumiko back to Japan.

Vegas was great! .....the songs went over well. I suspect that all the women in my past regret that they are in my past. same ole Uncle Jr.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

Yes, you remember the old Nash in line-eight that Al Dethman cut down the frame and put in a 2 speed axle for low speed and power. It used to smoke like a chimmey. I remember going up Ehrck hill and the exhaust put out so much smoke it polluted the pure air of Hood River Valley. The engine was all worn out, it needed an overhaul, that's why it smoked so much. It was fun driving it though. We used it to make the asparagus,bed we had to make deep furrows. You had to plant the roots way down deep because the roots tend to grow up. Just before the war we harvested the first crop of asparagus and we were on the edge of prosperity and the war broke out. It ended up as a cow pasture, maybe the cows liked the asparagus!!

The unagi take that grew on the willow stumps were okay for consumption. All the Japanese in the valley were eating it.

On another subject I got a card from Saburo Hata, saying how much he enjoyed the reunion. Of all the Hata boys he is the best-looking. I sent him a photo of him buying a CD from Pam.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 6, 2000

I think grandpa could be a good driver if he wanted to be so. He took all those chances when I was the only one in the vehicle.

I was going to look up the Hirata man living in Parkdale. He could be the third generation of Hirata's. I never got around to it.

Do you guys remember who built the replica outside our door in Block 67? I can't remember!! All I remember was Jr. Claude and Homer Akiyama teasing Tiny Kawakubo as she walked by!!. I heard later that she was murdered in Chicago!!

From Claude Morita, Nov. 7, 2000

Speaking of the Hiratas, don't you remember that terrible accident on the way to Portland? There was a caravan of cars from Hood River on the way to the big city on a holiday, probably the Fourth of July. We were a little earlier, I think, and we missed it. It seems this dumb bus driver was passing a bunch of cars and traffic came at him or something so he had to cut into the line of cars. He picked the place to cut in and it happened to be one of the Hirata cars and the thing went off a cliff or drop off. Mrs. Hirata was killed and a bunch of people hurt. All I remember about that accident was that Mr. Hirata was distraught for a long, long time. I remember that he got remarried with a younger wife from Japan and they never got along. Many a time, I remember Mr. Hirata being mad at his Japan wife and ordering her out of the house. Pop or Grandpa would try to calm him down, but he'd really be mad a long time.

Even at that age, I figured that if you really loved your wife and you lost her tragically, you would never find anyone to replace her. I really wanted them both to be happy and it was so sad. I would be bothered for a long time.

Mom and Pop were always comfortable and caring with each other. The Nishimotos and Dethmans, too. I always expect people to be that way. To this day, I switch channels when I see a movie story line where it starts out with a happy family life and the music or feeling shifts from major to minor key. It gets too stressful for me to watch the crisis and resolution. (Action movies are better. At least where the bad guy gets his ass kicked without too much fussing around.)

Weren't there at least three Hirata brothers? I agree with you, Ruth, they treated us very considerately. I could understand why Paul wanted to drop in on them. I even thought about it in August.

From Paul Morita, Nov. 7, 2000

We were not supposed to go with the Hiratas, I think they were going to the Pacific Ocean. That Hirata brother live across the street from the Satos and next to the Akiyamas. I remember one of his daughters was good looking, do you remember her name? The youngest Hirata was a judo instructor, he was single. I think they all went back to Japan from Tule Lake. The haunted house where was it? I don't remember that. You said it was on a straight stretch  of road, so it must have been on that 10 or 12 mile straight stretch near Gresham.

From Betty Shibayama, Nov. 9, 2000

I had some bad experiences with Grandpa.  He just liked to show off.

From Flora Hidaka, Nov. 11, 2000

I remember the flags on the radiator cap too.  Whose driving was worse, Rev. Inouye or Grandpa?

From Claude Morita, Nov. 11, 2000

Tough question. Both had different paradigms. Rev Inouye was thinking about how to reach out to us and save our souls -- instead of thinking about driving. Grandpa was thinking about being a samurai on the road when he probably did not know how to hold a sword, let alone a steering wheel.

From Claude Morita, Nov. 11, 2000

You remember the Hiratas well. I did not remember their names, but I do remember them saying they wanted to take you guys home. I sort of do that too. It's a sort of missing daughter syndrome. (Missing granddaughter, now. American mothers love it, though, when I say similar things to their cute daughters.)

Boy, Betty, you and Fumiko are long-winded on the phone. Fumiko says, "Please call me in the morning." So I try except that early A.M. is late P.M. in Kyushu. I waited a whole hour. It must have been interesting.

Anyway, Fumiko says Mr. Sarai came back to Japan before the war. He came sometime around the time Grandma did, to build their house in Mazoroi. Then, he went back to get his family. That's why Sumie spoke good English when I saw her in 1948-9 in Tokyo. (She was in the fourth grade or so in Portland.)

Fumiko said she used to get in arguments with Grandma about who was going to win the war. Fumiko was a good student so, of course, Japan was going to win. She said Grandma and Mr. Sarai would stand around and laugh at efforts of the Okayama people to build bomb shelters and protection. They used to say, "It was ridiculous to think that Japan could win a war against America. We have seen America and what Americans can do. What a stupid waste of time!"

Since their statements were semi-public, Fumiko was probably worried and mad at the same time. Worried that the secret police would cart them off and mad because they weren't with the program.

The Issei were pretty observant and wise in their ways.

From Paul Morita

Date: Nov. 11, 2000

She (Mary Sasaki) lives in Las Vegas, but she suffered a stoke and she is in a wheelchair. Flora can tell you more about her.

Homer is my second cousin, since Mrs. Hachiya was grandpa's niece, I didn't know we were that close!! Your information is very interesting, Claude!!

From Betty Shibayama

Date: Nov. 24, 2000

Shiba had our gardener friend, Tak Mayeda, whose wife was from the Soja area, look at the picture and he made out the names that Dad had written on the cover of the folder. He interpreted Mr. Akagi's name as Kenjiro. The couple standing between Dorothy and Mr. Akagi is Nagasuke Fukuda and wife. Does  that sound familiar to you older siblings? Have to ask Dorothy and Fumiko, too. Dorothy doesn't seem to get online or has forgotten how to. Someone needs to help her get back on. Any volunteers? She writes so well, we have to get her in on all of our discussions. Fumiko should be getting online soon, too.

From Paul Morita

Date: Dec. 8, 2000

I just talked with Fumiko this morning. The couple on the right next to Mr. Akagi were the Fukudas, Sarai's in-laws.

Who Dat?

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