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-01-0005

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TI: Now, having a father running a business of this type, how were the kids involved, and your mother? How were they involved in the business?

MW: How were the who? Kids?

TI: Yeah, the kids like you and your brothers and sisters.

MW: Well, they had to have laborers. [Laughs] We just worked, and when we were older, as our -- well, a lot depended on age. And I think most of us worked behind the counters since we were very small or very young, and especially on weekends when it was so busy. My sister worked a little, my brother worked, and I worked, and even my mother with five kids had to work on weekends at times. So it was... I don't know. It was kind of a hassle, I think, for the family.

TI: What were your memories? I'm trying to imagine. You know, to this day I still go down to the Pike Place Market. It's one of my favorite places. But can you sort of describe how it was for you, especially as a boy growing up, what the market was like?

MW: Okay, it was a unique society because of the stands and the actual farmers in Green Lake and the valley that used to come in. So the Isseis started a little community for themselves. They had restaurants, cafes, and what we call meshiyas now. And, gee, lunchtime was a special time for all the workers. They used to have these eateries with big pots of rice and whatever was the special of the day. And it was a very informal place where you can, guys like you could have eaten five bowls of rice, and it was very interesting. It was a community within itself. And there were a number of little restaurants or cafes that were hamburger joints, or just regular cafes, besides the meshiyas.

TI: Okay. So the meshiyas, was that organized by the, essentially the workers, or was somebody just set that up and then they charged the workers for lunch? How did that work?

MW: Well, I think it's just like down in Japantown or something. If somebody saw a chance for business or something, they just went in. 'Cause they had to be fed. It was interesting. It was a unique society in itself, I think.

TI: And the other small, like, hamburger places, were those also run by Japanese?

MW: Well, there were a few fairly small cafes where they had a few specials every day, that you could always get a sandwich or cup of coffee. Like -- a lot of those were just for breaks during the day.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.