Densho Digital Repository
Alameda Japanese American History Project Oral History Collection
Title: Mary Nakata Tomita Interview
Narrator: Mary Nakata Tomita
Interviewer: Jo Takeda
Location: San Rafael, California
Date: November 20, 2021
Densho ID: ddr-ajah-1-4

<Begin Segment 1>

JT: We're here in San Rafael on November 20th with Mary Tomita. I'd like to start by asking you your full name and the year you were born.

MT: My full name is Mary Sadako Tomita. I was born in 1931.

JT: And where were you born?

MT: In Alameda.

JT: Okay. What were your parents' names?

MT: Well, I have two sets of parents. My adopted parents' names were, my father's name was Hisao, the mother's name was Sei. My real parents' name were Tomoshige and Takeo.

JT: The last name?

MT: Nakata.

JT: Nakata. And they are your birth parents?

MT: Right.

JT: Okay. And you say that your other parents, were you adopted?

MT: Well, that's the funny part. I don't know if I should say this or not, but they registered me as their child at the city hall.

JT: In Alameda?

MT: In Alameda. My real parents registered Grace, the twin sister, as their child.

JT: At the city hall?

MT: At the city hall.

JT: Do you know the circumstances of that?

MT: Yes, I think I do. They really wanted to adopt our sister Alice, but since I guess my mother wouldn't give them Alice, so when we were twins, they thought it was a good chance, I guess.

JT: Oh, I see. And so you were both raised in Alameda?

MT: Yes.

JT: And did you know you were twins?

MT: Well, I think everybody... any time we had an argument with friends, they always said, "Oh, you're a twin," like "twin" was a bad word. Because they were so rare. I don't think there (were) hardly any twins in the... I mean, twins were not that common in those days.

JT: I see. And so they used that kind of as a --

MT: Always teased (me).

JT: -- a teasing, and today that would be called bullying, I think.

MT: Probably.

JT: Don't you think? And how did that make you feel?

MT: Well, you know, when you're a child, you really want to believe what your parents said, right? So we always said we were cousins. And people... of course, people like Kenji always knew that that's not so.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JT: Okay, and where did your parents come from in Japan?

MT: They all came from this one area called, well, around Niimi, N-I-I-M-I, Okayama.

JT: Oh, Okayama. Both of them?

MT: My adopted mother and my real mother were first cousins. The fathers were brothers.

JT: I see. I'll have to figure that out.

MT: [Laughs] Yeah, figure it out.

JT: We'll do a family tree later. And what did your parents do in Japan, your birth parents?

MT: Well, I think my father came very early to the United States.

JT: To Alameda?

MT: No. He must have come with a wife who passed away shortly after. I think you look at this tombstone and I think it says she passed away in (1910) or before that.

JT: Okay. And do you know what he did for occupation in Japan?

MT: Well, I think the whole family were farmers.

JT: And then when he came to Alameda, where did they live?

MT: (...) (I know) that I lived next door to the Buddhist Temple on 2315 Pacific Avenue, and my real parents lived on Oak Street, I think closer to Lincoln.

JT: Okay, and what was their last name?

MT: Nakata.

JT: Oh, wait, because they were brothers?

MT: (Yes). Actually, if I'm not mistaken, my father, my adopted father and my uncle Buichi, the one that lives in Palo Alto now, or did, all lived in Alameda at one time.

JT: Okay, in the early, at the turn of the century?

MT: No. Well, we were born in the '30s.

JT: Oh I see, I see. Okay.

MT: I don't know what year, from 1920 to 1930, they all lived in Alameda at that time.

JT: And do you know what his occupation was?

MT: Who?

JT: Buichi.

MT: Well, my father had that car wash business, and I think he wanted to be a mechanic at one time, so I think, I'm not too sure exactly what he did.

JT: I see, because it was called the Nakata Garage on the maps, old maps of Alameda. So maybe he was a mechanic.

MT: Well, I'm not sure. I don't know if (Florence, Buichi's daughter), would know or not.

JT: They did call it a garage.

MT: But then after... I don't know exactly what year. Buichi's wife, her name was Chizuye), she was a Kato.

JT: Alameda girl?

MT: Uh-huh, that family. I think she was raised in Japan, though. Anyway, her parents lived in Berkeley and they were, (...) had a lot of illness, let's say. So this Buichi and his family, my uncle, moved to Berkeley to take over the, they had a grocery (store).

JT: Oh, a Kato grocery store in Berkeley?

MT: Well I don't think it was called Kato.

JT: Okay. So that was your birth father?

MT: Well, the uncle, we're all related.

JT: Okay.

MT: The fathers were brothers.

JT: Right, I see. We'll look at those pictures later. That's so interesting.

MT: But anyway, there were five brothers in my father's family. All of them came to the United States. The grandfather was here at one time and went back to Japan for, I don't know, anyway.

JT: To stay?

MT: Yeah. And then after the grandfather died, actually, my birth father went back to Japan and... anyway, or maybe before that, sorry, before he even came to the United States, I think he... I'm not sure whether the grandmother came with him or not.

JT: I see. And when we talk about going back and forth to Japan, we make it seem like it only took a day or two. But in those days, it took a long time.

MT: I'm sure it did, yeah.

JT: With a lot of intention.

MT: Well, when our kids were, I think Paul was thirteen maybe, Donna was eight, I think, Kenji took us to Japan to show us the roots, our roots. So we've been to that area in Japan where our parents were from.

JT: What a great trip, though. And the kids were at a good age.

MT: No, they were too young.

JT: Oh, yeah? Maybe they were too young, thirteen and eight.

MT: Maybe Paul might know a little bit more.

JT: So when your father, Mr. Nakata, had the garage, what did your mother do?

MT: She worked as a, I think as a cook. Because she must have gone to work at maybe four o'clock, and then cooked and cleaned the dishes. I remember going.

JT: With her?

MT: No, with our father, my father, to pick her up.

JT: In a car.

MT: Yeah.

JT: I know that they worked, mothers in those days did a lot of cooking, ironing, and that kind of domestic work.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JT: And where did you go to elementary school?

MT: Porter school.

JT: Because Kenji went to Everett, which is on the other side of...

MT: Well, Everett closed in 1931, the year that (...) I was born.

JT: You were born. Okay, otherwise you, I'm trying to think. No, you would have ended up at Porter School anyway, I think. And did you go there through the eighth grade?

MT: Let's see. No, the war started, so when I was ten, I had to move from Alameda to Palo Alto.

JT: Okay, and why did you go to Palo Alto?

MT: Because my birth parents were living there.

JT: Okay. And did your, Mr. and Mrs. Nakata, your parents, went with you?

MT: We all went.

JT: You all went, okay.

MT: Well, actually, when I was growing up, our grandmother lived with us, my father's mother, she lived with us until we went to camp. And then, because Alameda had to move out early. We had another uncle that lived in, one of her sons lived in Sacramento.

JT: I see.

MT: So she moved to Sacramento and we went to Palo Alto.

JT: And then from Palo Alto, that was to leave Alameda immediately, where did you go for...

MT: Then we went to Santa Anita.

JT: Oh, you were far enough south to go to Santa Anita, not Tanforan?

MT: Then from Santa Anita we went to Heart Mountain.

JT: I see. That's how you got to Heart Mountain, and Kenji, the Tomitas went to Topaz.

MT: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MT: Then when we came back to California, we had a, we were greeted... well, actually, my birth parents came back in June of (1945), back to Palo Alto. And they're, they came back because they had a place to go. This was a Quaker family that took 'em in. Somebody that was almost unbelievable, sort of like you. Every time the train came into Palo Alto to let the Japanese out of camp, she went and picked them up and gave them a job, so they had a place to stay.

JT: Do you remember her name?

MT: Yes, Mrs. Isenberg.

JT: Oh my goodness. She did this for many families?

MT: Oh yeah, lots of families. She (and) this other lady, Mrs. Duveneck, from Los Altos, were very instrumental in helping the Japanese come out of camp.

JT: Resettle.

MT: Yeah, resettle, right.

JT: Do you know if they were ever recognized for the work that they did?

MT: I'm sure they were.

JT: Oh, I hope so, because I'd never heard a story like that before.

MT: Oh, okay.

JT: And so when you got there, where did you live?

MT: We got off the train and actually, I left before my parents. I came back to Palo Alto with the Nakamura family. And then I was met by this Mrs. Isenberg, and then that was (...) in August.

JT: Of '45?

MT: '45. And lived with them, with the family.

JT: You were just a teenager?

MT: Yeah. I was going to, I started junior high school there. Anyway...

JT: Had you stayed in touch with them after a while?

MT: Yes, we still do.

JT: Oh, are they still...

MT: Not the parents, but the daughter.

JT: Oh my gosh. How wonderful, what a wonderful connection that you had.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JT: And what about your other, your twin?

MT: Well, we all lived together. I lived with my biological mother, parents at that time, whereas my Alameda parents came back and, of course, got off the train at Palo Alto, and they immediately were in, put into a family in Los Altos, and they worked there for about a year until the house in Alameda was occupied until they would, we asked them to moved out.

JT: I see. Oh, so it was occupied during the war by another family.

MT: Yeah. Somebody, well, actually, we were very, very lucky because my father's... well, somebody that my father used to wash the car for...

JT: One of his clients.

MT: Decided that they were going to, I guess, maintain the house for us.

JT: Oh my gosh. Hakujin people?

MT: Yeah. Their name was Mulveny? You know them? I think so.

JT: Oh my gosh.

MT: He was a banker, the father. Anyway, he took care of the house and rented it out and, I guess, paid the taxes or whatever or anything. And then had this family live there, so most of our stuff that was left in the house was still there.

JT: Stayed intact. I think your mother told me something about that, because I know one time she, couple of times, she took me downstairs and wanted me to have some scrolls or something that she had had.

MT: See, like the Iwamasas, they left a box in the basement somewhere, and it was still there.

JT: It was intact?

MT: Yeah.

JT: Gosh, that's such an interesting story, I can remember being in that basement. Oh my gosh.

MT: Anyway...

JT: And then, so when you moved back to Alameda...

MT: I came back to Alameda.

JT: Alameda High School?

MT: Uh-huh.

JT: Okay. And who were your friends at Alameda High School in Japanese? Were there any Japanese there?

MT: Joan Narahara. Because she lived at the Gakuen.

JT: She lived at 2320?

MT: Yeah. So every morning we'd go to school together.

JT: Oh my gosh.

MT: And then I don't know whether you know Kazuko Sakurai?

JT: No.

MT: You don't know the Sakurais?

JT: Where did they live?

MT: I think they lived in one of those housings in the, by the naval air station.

JT: Oh, the projects.

MT: Yeah.

JT: So what about Carol Mayeda?

MT: Carol moved back to, I think, Berkeley. So I wasn't in touch with her.

JT: Okay, because they were an old Alameda family also. Joany just passed away a couple years ago.

MT: I see. Well, there were others, but...

JT: But those were your...

MT: In my class.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JT: And then what did you decide to do after you graduated? What year was that?

MT: From high school I graduated in 1949, and then I really didn't like English at all, decided to major in chemistry because my cousin did. It was, I graduated from Cal in chemistry.

JT: And you went to Cal?

MT: Yeah. And then worked at Dow Chemical for ten years.

JT: Oh my gosh. And in those days, how did you get from your house to Berkeley, to Cal?

MT: Well, my father had a car, which I got to borrow.

JT: Oh, he didn't drive you.

MT: No.

JT: Okay. Was he retired by then?

MT: No.

JT: He still kept the garage?

MT: Well, maybe he was. I don't know, I'm not too sure.

JT: What did he do...

MT: After the war he was a gardener.

JT: Okay. Who were his friends, do you know?

MT: My father's friends? Well, the Nakatas.

JT: Our cousins.

MT: Your cousin, used to come over almost every night to play go. The Teshimas, Mr. Teshima.

JT: Because they lived around the corner on Oak Street.

MT: I'm not sure if he came to play go, but he had some friends that... can't really remember who they were. But in the basement they played that go almost nightly.

JT: Do you know that that house is probably the heart of the old Japantown? Because it's right next to the Buddhist Church in that block, Pacific, the 2300 block is probably, I would say, the heart of old Japantown. So yeah, you were right there in the heart of it. Did you ever live in Berkeley, or did you commute?

MT: No. Oh yeah, I lived a short time at the dorm. Because my birth mother said that, you know, when you commute, you hardly have any friends. She thought it would be better if I...

JT: That's amazing that she encouraged that. Because while we couldn't afford to live in the dorm. We commuted. So then you got a job right away?

MT: After I graduated, yes, I was lucky. I graduated in '53. I think jobs were a lot more abundant, I guess.

JT: Yeah. But you had to commute to Pittsburg from Alameda.

MT: So there was this girl named Ruby Fong, I think was her last name, who worked at Dow and lived in Alameda. So we commuted. We were in a ride group up to Berkeley where this Chinese fellow, a boy, drove every day. He was a driver, and there were about six of us that rode in the car daily to Pittsburg.

JT: In a car, one car? Big station wagon.

MT: Yeah, he had a station wagon.

JT: And what exactly did you do at Dow Chemical?

MT: Well, Dow, I think at that time, was a major producer of chlorine. So I know my boss was working on some chlorine products. And I worked in the agricultural chemical department, and we synthesized new compounds.

JT: Oh my gosh, for fertilizer and things like that?

MT: Well, yeah.

JT: Did you know Kenji, I mean, George Kido? He was older than you.

MT: Yeah, I know who he is.

JT: He worked for Scott.

MT: Yeah.

JT: Shiz's, Spring's brother.

MT: Right.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JT: Okay, and how long did you work in Pittsburg?

MT: Let's see. Must have worked there about eight years, and then I think moved to Walnut Creek for the last couple years that I was there.

JT: And in between, you got married?

MT: Yeah.

JT: That's right, in 19...

MT: '57.

JT: '57, okay. And did you work, after you had your children, Paul, in... no...

MT: He was born in '63.

JT: '63, okay, and then you retired. What kind of... I wanted to say games, but what did you do for entertainment or fun as a child or as a teenager, your teenager years? Do you remember?

MT: Shopping.

JT: Oh, you were one of those shoppers. You know I think I do remember that. You liked to shop, but did you have any hobbies?

MT: I think we were just looking more than shopping.

JT: Window shopping, we call that window shopping.

MT: Right, right, that's what it was.

JT: And you look with your eyes. And what did you, other kind of hobbies did you have? Did you sew or, like, cooking or anything?

MT: Well, I think I sewed a little bit, maybe.

JT: Because girls, that generation of girls didn't do... oh, what did we do? We went to dance, well, I won't talk about what we did, but did you do some activities with the church? Did you go to Buena Vista Methodist Church?

MT: See, let me tell you what happened. Okay, we lived next door to the Buddhist Temple. So we were Buddhists until the war started. The war started and we went to Palo Alto. Then our relatives, or our parents thought that if we were of a different religion, that we might be separated. So they said, oh, let's all convert to Christianity.

JT: It was a group decision.

MT: By our family, yeah. Right. So we all converted to...

JT: Methodist?

MT: Methodist. Every furniture that we had was put into that... I don't know, there was a Methodist church, Page Mill, and that's where we stored everything that we had, I think most of the Japanese.

JT: Before relocation, internment?

MT: Yeah. See, I think at that time, too, the Quakers were already helping us.

JT: I see. And that's how you became Christian, and you stayed Christian?

MT: Yeah.

JT: That's interesting.

MT: Wait a minute, you know how we are, we never go to church. [Laughs] I'm sorry.

JT: No, but I didn't know that.

MT: Anyway, that's our story.

JT: So you were, you never went back to Buddhist?

MT: Buddhist, no.

JT: To support?

MT: No.

JT: Okay, that's interesting, though, how that happened and why that happened.

MT: Right.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JT: Oh my gosh. So then you returned, you were in Palo Alto, and then you came back to, how did you get back to...

MT: Alameda?

JT: Uh-huh. You didn't get back to Alameda.

MT: Yes, I did.

JT: Oh, when did you come back then?

MT: After we lived...

JT: Oh, in '46?

MT: We lived for a year with this family, the Isenbergs, and then my parents, the Alameda house was, the occupants left, so we moved back.

JT: Do you remember...

MT: Oh, actually, the occupants didn't leave. Actually, the occupants were still there, but I think we stayed in the basement for a while. They couldn't stand to have us living in the... you know, so they moved out.

JT: And during those years, do you remember your mom going to church?

MT: Yes.

JT: Faithfully.

MT: Faithfully.

JT: And she was part of the Issei ladies, the fujinkai. What kind of activities do you remember the fujinkai doing?

MT: Cooking, baking.

JT: Lots of cooking, making sushi. Do you remember going to any church picnics?

MT: Yeah, sometimes.

JT: And they didn't just make, bring sandwiches, what kind of foods did they bring, do you remember, to the church picnics?

MT: Oh, probably like inarizushi, barazushi maybe.

JT: All those goodies.

MT: Like what the bazaar serves.

JT: And do you remember who some of your mom's good friends were?

MT: I think she was really good friends with the Koikes, Mrs. Koike.

JT: Okay. And they just lived around the corner.

MT: On Oak Street.

JT: On Oak Street.

MT: Near the church. Iwamasa, Mrs. Iwamasa, Mrs. Teshima, they were good friends, yeah.

JT: Shiz's mother was Mrs. Iwamasa.

MT: Yeah.

JT: Okay. And what about Aoyagis?

MT: We didn't really know the Aoyagis.

JT: Maybe that was a different age, too. But I do remember...

MT: We know the Aoyagis because that's Kenji's sister-in-law. Kenji's brother married Toshiko Aoyagi.

JT: Okay, Stanley's...

MT: Sister. Was his sister-in-law.

JT: Stan Aoyagi's sister Toshiko married (his) brother.

MT: Right.

JT: I get it. I knew there was a connection but I didn't know exactly what it was. And the Mashiharas are in there somehow.

MT: Well, the Mashiharas were, Dan Mashihara and Kenji were very good friends.

JT: I see, okay.

MT: They were like two peas in a pod until he married me.

JT: I think I heard that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

JT: Okay, so then you came, and living here, and then you had Paul and Donna, and then what did you do after you retired?

MT: Not much. [Laughs]

JT: Did you have any interests besides taking care of Kenji?

MT: Played some tennis, played some golf.

JT: Did Kenji play golf and tennis, and/or tennis?

MT: He didn't play much tennis, but he golfed all the time.

JT: That's good. I'm glad that you kids were able to enjoy those kind of things that your parents never got to do.


MT: Actually, I always called my adopted father, Father. And my other father had a name, I always called Grace Mama and Grace Papa.

JT: Oh, because your sister's name is...

MT: Name is Grace.

BS: So you were actually calling your birth mother Grace Mama.

MT: Right. Actually, I should have said that at the very beginning, otherwise it's very confusing, you don't know what father I'm talking about.


JT: I was asking about your father whom I remember very well. His name was Hisao.

MT: That's correct.

JT: Okay, and he, that's where you lived on Pacific Avenue where they had the Nakata Garage. And you said a little earlier that he did gardening after resettling in Alameda. And I'm trying to remember how he passed away.

MT: He had a stroke.

JT: And was, did he live for a long time after the stroke?

MT: No. He had to go into a nursing home because it was very difficult to take care of somebody that's paralyzed.

JT: Right. Oh, he was paralyzed, okay.

MT: Yeah. So I think maybe half a year or less.

JT: I see, and then he passed away. And were you still living, you were not living at home anymore.

MT: Oh, no, I was already married and had Paul.

JT: And so Mrs. Nakata, your adopted mother, stayed in that house on Pacific?

MT: Right. Until she, I moved her to the J-Sei home on Channing.

JT: Right. Mrs. Nakata also, as I said earlier, she was quite a active member of the Fujinkai, and they made udon, do you remember the udon and sushi and all those things? They were really the heart and soul of the Buena Vista United Methodist church for many, many years.

MT: I think so.

JT: That whole group of ladies. But do you feel that she was a role model to you in any way, in any ways?

MT: I'm not sure.

JT: But by your work ethic and your devotion to... well, actually, I shouldn't call it a devotion because you became a Methodist overnight. [Laughs]

MT: [Laughs] Right. That's true, you're right.

JT: But you know in those days, I think the church played a big role in their lives. Do you feel that way?

MT: That was their culture. I mean, that was their social life.

JT: It was. They had their bible study, they had their Sunday devotion and meetings after.

MT: And the friends, they had all their friends there.

JT: And their children remained friends. So I think the church community played a big role in...

MT: Oh, I think so, especially for the Isseis.

JT: Yes.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

JT: And then I want to get back to your career when you said you worked at Pittsburg. Was that where you retired from the chemical company, Dow? Or did you say you went to...

MT: No, after I retired from Dow, I have not really worked (after that).

JT: You have not really worked, okay. Did you join Kenji in joining volunteer work?

MT: Well, like I said, since he was getting so old and tired of climbing stairs, he brought me along to climb the stairs.

JT: Right. Kenji delivered lunches for JASEB, or J-Sei now for thirty-two years. And you said when he couldn't run, drive, park and run lunches, you did that. Did you get to visit with any of the Issei people that you delivered lunches to?

MT: Yes. Actually, we sort of got to know Mrs. Nakamura, Cubby's mother.

JT: Cubby's mother.

MT: Yes.

JT: Tokyo Fish.

MT: Tokyo Fish now. She was a very interesting person.

JT: Oh, she owned this store before Cubby.

MT: No, I don't think so.

JT: Oh, she didn't own Tokyo Fish. Oh, but you knew her.

MT: Well, Kenji was delivering food to her for a long time. And then I was helping together, and we sort of got to know her a little bit. She graduated from Cal. And she made a career in working in the library at Cal.

JT: Mrs. Nakamura?

MT: Uh-huh, Cubby's mother. I think his father, too, was a Cal graduate.

JT: That's so interesting, that generation who also went to Cal.

MT: You know, you get to talk to them when you're delivering, and she was always standing out front waiting. And we'd chat for five minutes and left.

JT: Right, but for thirty-eight years, that's a long...

MT: Well, I don't know how many years he delivered (to her).

JT: Thirty-two years, that's a lot of minutes. So you did do your share of volunteering by delivering the lunches for J-Sei, or for JASEB, then it became J-Sei.

MT: But after he retired, both of us have not helped at all.

JT: Well, I think we all appreciate all those years that you gave them your time and your energy.

MT: But it was fun, Jo Jo, it really was.

JT: I thought about that a lot, especially since J-Sei is coming on their fiftieth anniversary, but how devoted you were, and how so few people know that because you're very quiet about giving your time.

MT: It was actually Kenji that did all the work.

JT: Well, I won't say anything, that there's always a good woman behind a good man, but I know that's true.

MT: [Laughs] Thank you.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

JT: So I wanted to just ask you about your children, Paul and Donna. What does Paul do for a living?

MT: He's a patent lawyer.

JT: And is he close to retirement? No, he's in his fifties.

MT: He's fifty-seven or eight now.

JT: Okay, so he has a ways to go. And what about...

MT: He was married to Patty Lee.

JT: On channel...

MT: Channel 2.

JT: Right.

MT: And after Patty's mother died, Patty quit working, and I don't know, they're divorced.

JT: When they were living in Berkeley? Weren't they living in Berkeley?

MT: Well, they were living at Berkeley, but they also bought a house in Mill Valley.

JT: Okay. Is Patty still at... no, you said she quit working.

MT: She quit working after her mother died.

JT: Paul was still a patent lawyer. And where does he work?

MT: Well, he's independent. Well, not actually. He has a couple of partners, he has an office in Mill Valley. And sometimes he teaches at University of San Francisco at the law school.

JT: Good for him. And what about your daughter Donna? What does she do?

MT: She's a nurse, she worked in the ICU for fifteen years. And then she said as she got older, her back was bothering her. So she now works at, I guess it's called post-op.

JT: Post-op?

MT: Yeah. That's what she does.

JT: It's not as strenuous. And then you have grandchildren?

MT: Two granddaughters that are both nurses. One went to Dominican, and the other one went to College of Marin. And College of Marin has this lottery system to get into the nursing school. And so she lucked out and she got in.

JT: You mean because there were so few openings?

MT: Yeah, I think they only take so many students and had a couple hundred applicants. And she was fortunate. Reena, I think, is very frugal. She's not a real spender. So anyway, we were going to, I would have supported her going to college, but she decided that's she's going to go to junior college. I think, you know, the tuition for one semester of going to a private university, and whole two years' tuition of going to nursing school at the College of Marin is the same price.

JT: Yes.

MT: Didn't even cost, even a semester.

JT: Thinking back to what you were talking about the cost, do you remember how much you paid at Cal for tuition?

MT: I think it was fifty or sixty dollars.

JT: A semester?

MT: Yeah.

JT: You can't even buy a book for that anymore.

MT: Right.

JT: A pencil sharpener.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JT: Well, you know, we're going to be finishing in a few minutes, but is there anything else you wanted to tell us about your life that I didn't ask you?

MT: Not really, no. I would say no.

JT: Well, I wanted to ask you what advice you would give to your granddaughters today.

MT: Well, I have very, very unfortunate in-law kind of problems. Both of my kids are divorced, so Rhea and Reena, we raised them for...

JT: Since they were crawling.

MT: Until they went to, well, I think the older one was probably almost out of high school. Anyway, so we're really more...

JT: You're parents.

MT: Yeah, they depend on us a lot more than... they asked us questions, we helped them.

JT: And I'm sure that they appreciate that and that they'll pass it on to, if and when they have family or to others. You don't have to pass it down to the family, but as long as you pass that kindness to others, it's...

MT: Anyway, the grandkids are really close to us.

JT: I'd like to thank you for this time that you shared with us. I think, I'm not sure if he's asleep or really asleep, but I think we put Kenji to sleep. No, I'm just kidding.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BS: Jo, why don't you ask Mary what she recalls, if anything, about her birth mother Takeno's sewing skills before going to the sewing school, the Imagire Sewing School?

JT: Okay. We have some photographs which show your mother, birth mother, Takeno, attending the Imagire sewing school in the '20s and early '30s. Do you remember her, anything about that? Did she talk about that, did she talk about that at all to you, going to sewing school?

MT: You know, when we were kids and she lived in Alameda, she worked from her house doing embroidery. So Grace has some samples of her mother's embroidery work. But she used to put initials on tablecloths.

JT: You call that monograms, like monograms?

MT: Yeah, she did those kind of things.

JT: Oh my gosh.

MT: That was her business, actually.

JT: Oh, so she was a professional monogrammer, I think embroiderer.

MT: Well, I think she must have gone through some...

JT: The training to get that.

MT: Maybe, but she was very skilled at that. I think she was very good with her hands. The Alameda mother was not very skilled with minor details like that.

JT: Oh, your adopted mother.

MT: My adopted mother was not that, she's more into cooking, that kind of stuff.

JT: More domestic, but she was a heck of a good cook, I remember that.

MT: Yeah. Whereas my biological mother was not much of a cook.

JT: Oh, my gosh. Your mother made the best kuri manju, did you know that?

MT: Right, she did. She was good at that.

JT: That's interesting. So did Takeno, your mother, your adopted mother and your birth mother, did they stay close?

MT: Oh, yeah. They were, like I said, they were first cousins. I think, if I'm not mistaken, when we went to visit Japan, they lived next door to each other.

JT: Okay. So actually it's a wonderful story. At first I was sad, but now that I heard it all, I feel very happy for all of you. Because even though you were twins who didn't grow up together, it was like being in one really close family.

MT: Yeah, we were actually one big family.

JT: And do you still see Grace? She lives far away.

MT: Well, we talk to each other a lot.

JT: Okay. And to you reminisce?

MT: Yeah, sometimes.

JT: Oh, that's great. Anything else?

BS: No, I was just curious if you remembered anything about the sewing school that she went to or if you even knew about it. Did you even know about the sewing school that your mother went to, your birth mother, Takeno?

MT: No.

JT: Because that was in 19... and you were, she wasn't born.

BS: So you don't have any materials from Takeno's time, like clothing that she may have made?

MT: No, but she did give me an embroidery.

JT: Do you have it?

MT: Yeah, I don't know where it is right now, somewhere in the closet.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MT: See, the Quakers, I think because at that time it was hard for Japanese to buy land. So they bought a whole plot of land on Colorado Street in Palo Alto. And my uncle Buichi, cousin Ikedas, all lived in Palo Alto because they thought it would be nice if all the Nakatas got together. So we had a piece of land there, like my father. Tomoshige had a plot of land, Buichi, the Ikedas. Anyway, that land on Colorado Street where the Nakamuras, I think, lived there. Anyway, that's how they got that land was through the Quakers, and the Quakers built the church there. I think next door to my uncle's house. You don't know that?

BS: That part I don't know.

JS: Sounds like was it all one block?

MT: Yeah. And (Mrs.) Duveneck were very instrumental in that, too. I think their son-in-law was an architect or something. But anyway, had something to do with that land.

BS: Yeah, I think that sort of, I don't know if you want to call it school, but I think it still exists.

MT: If I'm not mistaken, that's the way I interpreted it.

BS: Yeah, I think you're right about that.

JT: Whereabouts in Palo Alto is this I don't know too much of Palo Alto.

MT: Do you know where the Buddhist church is in Palo Alto?

JT: Yes.

MT: Okay, it's not too far from there. I think it's... anyway, it's on Colorado (Street).

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2021 Densho. All Rights Reserved.