Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Gene Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Gene Akutsu
Interviewers: Larry Hashima (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-agene-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

LH: This is a visual history with Gene Akutsu. My name is Larry Hashima. The date is July 25, 1997, Friday. Hello, Mr. Akutsu.

GA: Hi.

LH: I guess we'll go ahead and we'll get started with the interview then. Let's start with your family, how did your parents come to live in Seattle?

GA: Well, like most all Isseis, my father came to this country back in 1908, I guess it was, and his ideas were like everybody: thinking that the United States was paved with gold, they'd make their money, and head on back home. But as it turned out, it was quite different and he worked here to get his passage and get enough money so that he could go back and find a bride. And she was brought over some eight years later after he came back and then they started, a family was started then which was very close to 1918, around there.

LH: So your father always had ideas of returning to Japan when he first came over, but those ideas pretty much disappeared once he started the family?

GA: Right, right.

LH: So they came to live in Seattle. So what did your father do when he decided he would settle and start a family?

GA: He tried various types of business. He had gone into, I think, making shoyu. He had had a shoe, shoe store, meaning new shoes. And after that, he also worked for Frederick and Nelson and he had various jobs. But he had spoken to some of the people and they told him, the people from Frederick's, in fact, told him that -- they called my father Charlie -- "Why don't you get into business that everybody needs? Why don't you try the shoe repair business?" That, people needs a pair of shoes and there'll always be shoes to repair. So, that got him motivated to start out a shoe repair shop which he carried on for, until evacuation and after he came back he also went back to a little bit of shoe repairing, in a semi-retired sort of way.

LH: So, he opened up this shoe repair business. Where was this located? Was it just sort of down on Jackson? Was it...

GA: Yeah, that was located at Sixth and between Jackson and King Street, where the International Post Office now stands.

LH: So were there other Nisei businesses in the area?

GA: Yeah, in that area there were many. Many Japanese were in that area, and I guess you might say that was the heart of Japanese town, in that area and up on Main Street, also on Sixth Avenue. So yeah, they were all concentrated in that area right next to the Chinatown.

LH: While you father was working, your mother was just basically at home...

GA: Housewife.

LH: ...housewife, raising the kids?

GA: Yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.