Detail of Lonesome Moon by Tameichi Wada, 1944.

Seibi Okita poses outside the Nishi Hongwanji in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 3, 2003.

Seibi Okita at the Nishi Hongwanji

OKITA Miyoshi Slide Show

Seibi Okita, son of Miyoshi Okita, was interviewed on June 3, 2003, at the Nishi Hongwanji in Los Angeles, California.

Seibi Okita, Tape 1 - Audio - 56k

    Seibi Okita's father, Miyoshi Okita studied to become a Buddhist minister in Japan and was assigned to the Nishi Hongwanji in Los Angeles, California.

    Although Okita's father was in Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills and Brawley for a short time from 1937 to 1941, many people knew and respected him. Okita, the eldest son, did not want to become a minister, but now volunteers his time at the same temple his father served. Okita's yongest brother now runs the family temple in Mifume, Kumamoto, Japan.

    Okita's father devoted his life to helping people. Under impoverished conditions in postwar Japan, Okita's father started a Sunday school tradition for children. He taught people to live with respect and grace. Okita's father said any important work takes 20 to 30 years. When he visited recently, Okita recognized his father's spirit in the people.

    Okita's father returned to Japan for his marriage. Okita was born in 1939 at the Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights. Okita now volunteers to drive seniors to the temple for services. Some of the ladies in the Tokyo Towers residence know him from childhood.

    Family Portraits

    Okita's father was arrested by the FBI the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. Okita's family was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, Wyoming and rejoined his father in Crystal City, Texas. After the war Okita's family returned to Japan. On the five day train trip to Kumamoto Okita's infant brother had no milk.

    Since Okita's grandfather died during the war, Okita's father returned to run the temple. Okita describes photos from his family album. In Heart Mountain at the age of four, Okita walked through the snow to the kitchen to get milk for his brother.

    Okita found a short article about parental love his father wrote in the temple newsletter. As an infant, Okita looked like his father. His father grew a mustache to distinguish himself from his baby. When looking at his son's bald head, he wished he could transplant his mustache.

    Okita's father wrote a sutra in the manuscript: Different streams flow into the same sea.

Seibi Okita, Tape 2 - Audio - 56k

    Okita interprets and reads his father's contribution to the manuscript. In Japan, Okita wrote higo kyoku, twisted verse using Kumamoto dialect.

    Okita's parents stayed in Japan to run the temple. In Japan, Jodo Shin Shu temples are owned and operated by a family and passed down through the generations. After graduating from high school, Okita moved to the U.S. His two brothers who were born in America followed.

    Okita lived in Los Angeles with Mrs. Oshiro. She knew Okita's father in Okinawa, Boyle Heights and Brawley. Okita worked as a houseboy. Although he studied English in school, he could not understand anything. The woman he worked for was very patient.

    He attended L.A. City College and worked as a cook at the cafeteria. He lived at the same house for 19 years. When he was 21 he was drafted into the army and sent to Ft. Ord in Monterrey, California. He returned, worked at the Red Balloon restaurant in Torrance and bought a 4 unit apartment building. He worked 16 hour days at the Pig House, a cafe in Little Tokyo. He has worked for a supermarket for the past 37 years and lives in Westlake Village.

    Okita has two sons and one daughter. The oldest, Issei lives in Nagoya, Japan and works in the administration of an international relations school. He has two children. Okita's second son, Mamoru, works in the navy as a sonar engineer and is stationed in San Diego. Okita's daughter, Lina, is studying in Long Beach to be a dietician. She won a speech contest held by the Nishi's Japanese School.

    Okita's father gave an affadavit on behalf of one of the men killed by guards in Lordsburg.

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