Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Yamasaki Interview I
Narrator: Frank Yamasaki
Interviewers: Lori Hoshino (primary), Stephen Fugita
Location: Lake Forest Park, Washington
Date: August 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-yfrank-01-0001

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LH: Okay. Today we're meeting with Frank Yamasaki at his home. Lori Hoshino is the interviewer and Steve Fugita is the second narrator and Matt Emery is the videographer today. [Ed. note: Stephen Fugita is the second interviewer.] Frank, I want to thank you for your willingness to participate with our study and the interview. If you don't mind if we start out with, I'd like to find out a little bit about your upbringing and your parents. Could you tell me a little bit about their personalities and their work?

FY: Well, my parent came from Hiroshima and there's a small island there called Nomijima, and my father came to this country in, I think it was 1898.

LH: Early on.

FY: Yeah, I think he came to Vancouver in Canada first and somehow slipped through the border and came to the United States. I couldn't get too much information from my father. He was a somewhat quiet person, and, but, so most of the information about Japan and my father and mother is from my mother.

LH: I see. Now, what was she like?

FY: She was very personable. She loved to read, so I think I would consider her as being addicted to reading. She tried even, everything possible to enjoy reading. She would even read the advertisement on packages or match covers or, in Japanese.

LH: So, she was, she was addicted to reading?

FY: Addicted to reading, yes.

LH: Did she read to you as a child?

FY: Well she would have, there would be children's book and that would come from Japan and these stories would be about the samurais or ghost stories and they would always end at a very crucial period, point, and so it would be continued on the next issue. So every month I would, used to look forward to looking for these books and then she would read it and then she would translate it so I could understand. Looking back to it, of course, it was very nice.

LH: And what sort of work did they do?

FY: Did I do or...

LH: What did your parents do?

FY: My father worked at a, several places, I think. At an early stage he worked in the coal mines. He may have even worked on the railroads, and farms, of course. Then in Seattle, he worked at a junk company. Alaska Junk Company.

LH: Oh, what did he do for the junk company?

FY: I'm not sure. I'm sure manual labor. He was a strong person so they probably had him carry heavy junks around. Later he worked for a burlap company. He was very fast in learning, whether it's installing electrical work or carpentry or even repairing the car. When something was wrong he would take it to the garage and then he would watch and the next time he would do it himself. I think most of the Issei were very adept at doing several things like this purely because of the economics... I think.

LH: Now, how did they meet and get married?

FY: You know, they say "picture bride," but they knew each other. They came from the same village. And ironically -- I'm kind of going to another area -- but my, my wife, Sadie, in the 1930s came. She visited Japan with her mother and she returned with my brother in the '30s. And this little child which I didn't know, turned out to be my wife, Sadie. It turns out also that her mother and my mother knew each other and also her father and my father came to America on the same ship.

LH: Sounds a little like fate.

FY: There's an interesting thing about -- coming over on the ship, my mother was never exposed to a Western-style pull chain toilet, so on the ship, her first experience was when she saw the bowl. Toilet bowl. She thought, "Could it be something to wash your feet in or wash your hand in?" And anyway, she was curious about that chain. It was, in the old days, they had the water tank up above the bowl, toilet bowl. And when she pulled the chain and the water started gushing down, she thought she broke it, so she would run off. Another thing she said that was interesting, the bathtub, the Japanese were used to taking bath in a furo, hot tub. So they would do their washing outside the tub and there'd be more than one person in there. And they'd wash outside, then they go and soak. Well, you can imagine what happened to the floor in that bathroom, and the captain, I guess, was angry to see what a mess there was there.

LH: So they had an interesting adjustment coming over to America.

FY: Oh, yes. And the one thing she said was getting off the boat, she said she was shocked as to how dirty the streets were. There were many horses that pulled the buggies and so they had a lot of horse dung all around the street and at the same time these streets were a boardwalk, rather than cement and on a rainy day of course very muddy. So the streets were not paved with gold. [Laughs]

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