Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masao Watanabe Interview
Narrator: Masao Watanabe
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-wmasao-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's talk first about your parents and why don't you tell me where your parents came from in Japan.

MW: Okay. I'll start with my dad, 'cause Japan is such a male-oriented country. He was -- his parents were landowners in a little, little village called Nanbu, N-A-N-B-U. It's up in the hills south of Kofu, which is a fairly big city. And they were gentleman farmers. They used to lease land to people, and I was never too sure how much property they had, but I do know that the visit we made, people used to bring stuff. I don't know how the lease arrangements were.

TI: Explain that again. You said when you visit --


TI: We were just talking about your father and his family and they were in Japan and they were near, I guess, south of Kofu. One question just about your dad -- and we talked about this a little bit earlier -- was that you mentioned how he was the first-born son of a family. And I guess a follow-up question I wanted to do right before the break was, you had a sense of how much land that your dad's family had and it was quite a bit. And I guess the question I had was it seems a little bit unusual for a first-born son to -- especially from a family with land holdings like that -- to leave. And so I'm wondering if you had any insights into that.

MW: I had a lot of insights into it. It's, it's, you know, when you start talking about Japanese families, the eldest son is always the favorite. And he had several younger brothers, and I've always wondered why he came to the U.S. And he was always a little reluctant to tell me. But I do know they sent him to Tokyo to go to school. And somehow -- this is my own conclusion -- I think he didn't do too well in school. And you know how the Japanese, the structure of the family goes, if you bring shame to the family or something. I think it was something like that, but he was very coy about responding. So I'm, I can't say I'm sure, but that was always my suspicion, that he didn't want to shame the family (...).

TI: And when you went back to Japan later in life, were you ever able to get more information about your father?

MW: No, I wasn't, 'cause the one who took over this land was my dad's youngest brother, and the gal he married was not from the old hierarchy, so, and they had no kids. So there was a little controversy when he died, and the land was turned over to the wife's family. And my dad's side was very unhappy about that. And then my mother was from a merchant's family in Kofu, which is a fairly large city. It's kind of in the northeast side of the Alps. Pretty, very pretty country. It's famous for grapes and vineyards and things like this, and they were merchants, her dad. They used to handle jewelry, and I know just until recently they still had the same thing. They partly manufactured necklaces and things like this, but they had a lot of jewelry.

TI: Well, they were both from the same area. How did the two of them meet?

MW: That's a good question. I guess the families, but I would be guessing. I'm not sure.

TI: Now, did they meet -- do you know if they met before they came to the United States, or was your dad here first and they went back and married?

MW: Well, my dad was here first, but I'm sure the families knew each other.

TI: Okay.

MW: I had... I kind of enjoyed our visit to Kofu. It was very interesting.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.