Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Asano Terao Interview I
Narrator: Asano Terao
Interviewers: Tomoyo Yamada (primary), Dee Goto (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 19, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-tasano-01-0003

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[Translated from Japanese]

TY: You were born in the latter part of the Meiji Era.

AT: In 30.

TY: In 30. Then, did your grandparents and mother tell you about the period when the era changed from Edo to Meiji?

AT: Sometime they told me some stories. When I was listening, I felt like it was frightening and scary. Something like that. But, in general, I got the impression later on that the changes back then actually went smoothly. That was because the person who was in charge of the village was steady. That was my uncle, my great uncle. His name was Takezou Takemoto, and he didn't live in the same village. It wasn't like he lived in the same village... he lived in a village next to ours. That was my guardian, and he was very rigid. When I said that I wanted to go to girls' school, he had a daughter and her name was Hisano. He came to me and gave me such an order as I should go to the one Hisano was attending. I didn't care where I was going to attend as long as I could go to girls' school, so I thanked him for his decision. He came to visit our house at least once or twice every month. When I needed money, I would tell him, "Uncle, this time, I need a little more than usual because I need money for tuition and the school trip." Then he would answer, "Go to the post office and withdraw money." It was like that.

TY: You went to Shintoku Jikka Girls' High School after you went to Gion Grade School in Gion-machi for six years, to high grade school, right? You wanted to go to normal school...

AT: Yes, I went. I went to take the entrance exam. But I failed because of my body structure.

TY: Why did they have a physical exam back then to get into normal school?

AT: If there hadn't been a physical exam, it would be troublesome if schoolteachers cried out with pain due to physical problems. Then, my case, my chest was too narrow for my height. My friends, Ms. Kasaoka and Ms. Mito, they were bigger than I was, like this, [Ed. note: Mrs. Terao motions toward herself.] both of them. They were as tall as I was. Then, a doctor called Dr. Ota told me, "Asano, you can't make it even if you go." I asked him, "Why, Doctor?" He responded that I wouldn't pass the physical exam. In fact, as he had assumed, my name was on the board because I passed the academic exam. But, my name wasn't on the board as of the result of the physical exam. So I failed the physical exam. The physical exam was very strict for schoolteachers. I said, "I see," and there was nothing I could do, so I said, "I will just return right away on the train tonight," and I got on the train and came back. Then I told Dr. Ota, "Doctor, I couldn't make it," then he said, "I told you so. You would probably pass the academic test, but I told you not to go because you would probably fail the physical exam!" So I said, "That's right, Doctor." [Laughs]

TY: Because you were thin.

AT: My weight wasn't sufficient.

TY: Your weight...

TY: My weight was not sufficient for my height. Also, when measured, the width of my chest was insufficient as well. The same thing today. I guess you are born with it. But, Ms. Kasaoka and Ms. Mito and all others have already passed away. And I, who failed the physical exam, am remaining.

TY: Until the age one hundred.

AT: When I went to Japan last time, everybody told me that their teachers, Ms. Kasaoka and Ms. Mito had passed away. "Is that so?" "You were skinny, Ms. Nagao. You weren't accepted at normal school." [Laughs] They said, "You remained and both Ms. Mito and Ms. Kasaoka passed away..." "Oh, they had passed away." We had such conversation. See, you can never tell the lives of the people. It is absolutely nonsense to assume that someone will live longer because someone is fat, or someone will not make it because someone is skinny.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.