Densho Digital Repository
Alameda Japanese American History Project Oral History Collection
Title: Kiyoko Masuda Interview
Narrator: Kiyoko Masuda
Interviewer: Judy Furuichi
Location: Alameda, California
Date: November 5, 2021
Densho ID: ddr-ajah-1-1-1

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JF: I'm Judy Furuichi, and I have the pleasure this morning to interview Kiyo Sato Masuda, who will share her experiences and her personal reflections and her story. So good morning, Kiyo.

KM: Good morning.

JF: Can you just give us, to begin with, a little bit about yourself? Start with your name, that's important.

KM: I'm Kiyo Masuda. My full name is Kiyoko, but, of course, I go by Kiyo. And I am... I'm a third-generation Alamedan. And so my grandparents came as Isseis, and then my father was born here, and I was born in Alameda also. So I was privileged and asked to be part of this project. Thank you.

JF: Thank you. So can we begin with, you mentioned your parents. Can you begin with their story as early, early Alamedans?

KM: Well, my father, Goro Sato, he was born in 1907 in Alameda. His parents had come prior to that, a few years before that. And he had an older brother, Toshio. I think Toshio was born in Japan and he was brought over as a young boy, little boy. My grandfather was a gardener and worked for various families here. And my grandmother was a housekeeper. And there was one family that I would like to note. It was the Nortons that lived on Lincoln Avenue that they worked for, and my parents became good friends with their children, Helen and Harry Norton. But my dad, when he was eighteen months old, was sent back to Japan. And this was not an unusual thing to happen for the immigrants at that time, and my dad was sent back at eighteen months to live with his grandparents. And apparently my grandparents wanted him to have a Japanese education. They wanted their, if they could, send their children back to get educated, to get the Japanese education and the Japanese values and ethics. So that was one of the reasons I understand.

So my dad was a Kibei, and when he was eleven years old, he was brought back to the States. And I remember him saying that he came back, he didn't know his parents. He was so young, and so he remembers that the first thing that his mother said to him was keep his collar straight. "And when you go out, make sure your shoes are shined and you wear a hat." He had finished fourth grade in Japan and he says his life there was really, it was a child's life. And he was able to play, he doesn't remember getting into fights or anything. He was raised by his grandmother and his great-grandmother. Apparently the, his grandfather and great-grandfather were already gone by then. And, gosh, he used to tell us these wonderful stories. One was he said that his grandmother, his great-grandmother, he had gone to school, and then a neighbor came and he had to go straight home because his great-grandmother was calling for him, she was dying. And my father says that he remembers rubbing her feet, rubbing her feet. And so, coming from a very loving childhood then, coming back to the United States, not knowing his parents, and not being able to speak English because he was raised, you know, in Japan, I'm sure it was difficult being a Kibei.

But he says that he went to Alameda High School, he said he had an English teacher, and Papa had an accent. And he said she would say, "Say, 'I love you.'" And he said he'd try, and he'd say, "I lub you." [Laughs] Anyway, he was very smart, my dad. And he said when he was going to school, he also took English lessons for three years. He wanted to improve his English and he wanted to go to college. He took Japanese, and so he was able to pass the Japanese classes through eighth grade. And then his social life, he said, was when he went to school, he didn't interact at all with the non-Japanese but with the Japanese, and so his social life was primarily here at the Alameda Buddhist Temple. He was asked what about dating and all, he said, "Oh, no." He said the boys stayed together and the girls stayed together. He said he didn't gamble, there was lots of gambling apparently in Chinatown in Oakland, and so he and his friends would go over there to eat Chinese food.

And then when he was still in high school -- this was in 1923 -- his mother decided to go back to Japan. And then in 1925, the year that he was graduating from high school, his father went back to Japan. And so my father, the money he had saved to go to Berkeley, he gave it all to his father. And that was the end of his ability to go to college. So from what I understand, he did itinerant farming and went all the way down, even like to San Diego and worked his way up farming. Then he came back and lived with his brother. I don't know where in Alameda, but it must have been on this side of Lincoln Avenue and continued going to school, Laney College. He also took correspondence courses with Waseda University. And he was offered a job with one of the Japanese language vernacular newspapers in San Francisco, and he wanted to take that because he was gardening. And his older brother said, "No, there's not enough money in there." And so he didn't do that, which is a shame. So he continued gardening.

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