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-01-0027

<Begin Segment 27>

SF: Is it generally true that, like you portrayed your parents as being kind of discouraging going to dances and things of that sort, so was the Issei community so, sort of careful about what the Niseis were doing so that really kind of constricted certain kinds of social activities and no one ever did any hanky panky because it was so tightly watched and controlled dr?

GA: I think my situation was an exception being that my parents were both teachers. They were pretty strict and my mother would never allow cards, a deck of cards, in the house. My brother and I would sneak under the sheets at nighttime and play cards and she'd catch us, she grabbed that card and threw it in the fire and burnt it up. And so I didn't know about gambling. When I wound up going to camp, that's when I heard of all sorts of various gambling going on plus the Japanese hana and all that thing and I never even knew that they had anything like that. Only thing I heard about was what they call karuta, meaning, that is a game they played on New Year's. They show pictures of whatever, a little dog, and they would say, this person would read a card saying something about a dog and you're supposed to pick those cards up, beat the others to the card. It's how fast your reactions are, that kind of a game, but as far as putting money, betting, I never heard of. And I was surprised to find out so many Isseis playing cards. The Niseis over in the warehouse I found out, my God, that's all they play, is cards, cards, cards. Whenever they get together, out come the cards and they would play and I would just stand there with amazement watching them play. So I never did, I never became a gambler. I think something like that that is pounded into you ever since you're young it kind of sticks with you.

LH: But did you think that the other Issei were as strict as your parents? Was that something that was somewhat unusual, that they were so strict that they wouldn't allow cards in the house or...

GA: That's what I said, my parents were an exception, and they tried to raise us as straight as possible. They were, I'm sure to a lot of people's standards, that they were overly strict but they meant well. And they would stress education, education, and the family friend is the Sasaki, Shosuke Sasaki, and he was there up in close to going to the University when I was just a youngster. And my parents would pound that into us that we have to be like Shosuke when he grows up, we grow up, become a Phi Beta Kappa, and so on, so forth and someday if you study hard you could be the President. It's taken a long time but it's getting closer and closer. At least we have an Asian governor now so we're making headway and so maybe my dad's guessing or thinking that someday that might happen, might really happen.

LH: When he got -- going back to the sort of situation and working off of Steve's question -- in camp did you see that that was sort of a phenomena where the Nisei were sort of more under control under their parents' watch before camp? That once they got to camp, that they were sort of...

GA: Let's put it this way. What the parents didn't know, wouldn't hurt. I guess they had their share of liberties that the parents didn't know about. There were some that were pretty liberal, they got around. But I for one, speaking for myself, I was pretty much held under although I rebelled against it and like I said before, I didn't even know what to say to a girl when I dated 'em. And I used to talk to the boys to find out. What do you say to the girls? You can't talk about sports, you just can't talk about the weather. What else can you do? But I guess through time you realize or you understand what you're supposed to say to the girls... and that boils down to talk about nothing. [Laughs]

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.