Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Take Murayama Interview
Narrator: Take Murayama
Interviewer: Tomoyo Yamada
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 13, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mtake-01

[Translated from Japanese]

<Begin Segment 1>

TY: This is Tomoyo Yamada. It is Friday, March 13 of 1998. I am going to interview Mrs. Take Murayama at the Seattle Keiro nursing home. Hi, Mrs. Murayama. First, please tell me your date of birth.

TM: Date of birth...

TY: What year were you born? What year of Meiji era...

TM: Twenty-eight.

TY: What is your date of birth?

TM: It's August 11 of Meiji 28 [1895].

TY: Your birthday is August 11. And, you are from Nagano Prefecture?

TM: Yes, Nagano Prefecture.

TY: Could you tell me a little bit about the village where you were born and raised?

TM: You want me to talk about the village where I grew up?

TY: Yes. I heard that it was near the Tenryu River.

TM: Yes. There is a lake called the Lake Suwa. There was a house, a big house, on the riverbank, which anyone would wonder what it was made there for. It was on the bank of the Tenryu River that flows out of the Lake Suwa. The house was big -- it was a two-story house. In the big house, I was born and raised.

TY: How about your family? Could you tell me about your family?

TM: There were eight children in my family. The oldest and the youngest were boys, and six in the middle were girls. I was the youngest of the six girls.

TY: Everybody lived in the big house.

TM: Yes, everybody lived in the big house.

TY: I heard that you became a nurse at the age sixteen.

TM: Yes. Back then, after graduating from [inaudible] grade school, people either started working or still continued studying. I studied and went to a school of nursing. Then, I became a nurse.

TY: You worked in the hospital.

TM: Yes.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 1>

<Begin Segment 2>

TY: Could you tell me how you met your husband?...Your husband.

TM: About my husband?

TY: Yes. I heard that you had a meeting with your husband for the arranged marriage when you were twenty-one.

TM: Yes, that's right. I was twenty-one. I think my husband was twenty-eight. [inaudible]. He was also from Nagano Prefecture. Our mutual friends introduced us and we got married after the arranged meeting. Then, I came to the United States.

TY: Was the arranged meeting at home? Where did you have the meeting?

TM: No, the meeting... I don't know. I don't think it was at the house of the go-between... I forgot it all since it happened such a long time ago.

TY: Then, you decided to get married.

TM: Yes. My husband had already been here before, and he came back to Japan to look for a bride. He was originally from Chiisagata. So, he came back. There was a village called Chiisagata in the same ken. He was originally from there. Then, he came back to Japan. Until then, he was in the U.S. since he was nineteen years old. Then, he came back, and we got married through the introduction of our mutual friends, then we came over here.

TY: Your husband left for the U.S. before you.

TM: Yes.

TY: You started preparing for your passport.

TM: No, oh, yes, that's right. See, I had to get a passport. So, he went back to the U.S. Then, I got a passport and came to the U.S. alone. He had already been over here. We didn't do such a thing as deciding the date by telegram back then. Since we corresponded by mail, it took days to communicate. Then, I came over here.

TY: I heard there was a physical test when people left Japan. A physical test.

TM: Yes.

TY: That was before you came to the U.S.

TM: Yes, that's right. Physical, there was a physical test. Yes. I took the test because I had to get a passport. I passed the test, then I came over.

TY: How about your English? What about studying English?

TM: English, English...


TY: How did you learn English before you came to the U.S.?

TM: English.

TY: Before you immigrated.

TM: Well, actually, I couldn't really learn anything. Somebody I knew, somebody taught English to me. I forgot how I learned English. I could learn only some words, though. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TY: Everything was finally ready, and you boarded on the ship for the U.S.

TM: It was hard to get a passport, so we couldn't come together. Since it took a while for me to get a passport, he had already returned to Seattle alone.

TY: Could you tell me a little bit about the ship? How many days did it take to Seattle?

TM: Let's see, fourteen days or so. I think it took about fifteen days.

TY: Were all the passengers Japanese?

TM: Yes, Japan, the Japanese ships. There were two Japanese ships. And, one of the ships, what was the name? It was called, something-maru, but I forgot it, too. See, this is from a hundred years ago. [Laughs] So, see, I've forgotten it all.

TY: Two weeks on the ship. What was the life on the ship like?

TM: It was a Japanese ship, you see. They served Japanese food. All, yes, all the food was Japanese. I came here. I came here by myself. My husband had returned here already, but my passport, it was hard to get it because it was my first one. It was not issued easily. So, he had returned to Seattle a step ahead of me, and I came by myself. But, there were only young people on the ship at that time. That kind of people. There were no foreigners. They were all Japanese. How many passengers were there on the ship, I wonder. It was lively. Yes. It was fun. I had a lot of fun. I just remember that. It was like we were on the exciting journey, and we had fun. I wasn't either sad or depressed at all. Well, I was coming for my husband, so there was no way I would be sad, you know. Anyway, there was no feeling like sadness inside of me. Everybody was alike, everybody was the same: passengers, right? Everybody was, see, young people and a lot of people were brides like me. There were two, the ships, you know. And, one was called what-maru, I wonder. It was called something-maru, and it only boarded Japanese. There were no hakujin at all on the ship.

TY: Then, you arrived in the U.S. and came to Seattle.

TM: Yes, I came to Seattle.

TY: Then, you were re-united with your husband, right?

TM: Yes, that's right. Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TY: I heard you left Seattle for North Dakota with your husband shortly after.

TM: Well, there was no job. We couldn't choose where to work. We didn't have a choice back then. We found jobs in North Dakota, an opening for a married couple. My husband became a cook. He couldn't cook, but he worked as a cook. I became a maid. So, we went there. We got our own room there. It was well prepared for a married couple to live. And, there were two children, I believe, in the family. A couple and their two children, I think. There, neither of us knew anything, even the letter A or B. But, we just went there. You see, we couldn't live without a job. We weren't afraid of anything. When we got there, they had a room for us. The family must have been well off as they were hiring a couple to do their house chores. They were a young couple, though. They provided us a room there, so we started working there. Now I wonder how on earth we did it. [Laughs] I wouldn't do the same thing now, because I know better now. Even though I still can't speak English, since I already know the situations, I wouldn't have such courage to go there again. Anyway, we went there because we had to work for a long time. I didn't think anything bad about the family. Our friends had been in the same area already. They had already come to the same place under the same circumstance where we got in to live and work. They introduced us to the job. So my husband and I started working there. It was the family of a young couple and two children, I think. They provided a room for us, so that we could make a living of our own. At the end of the day, we went back to the room right after we finished our chores, so that we could be just by ourselves.

TY: Were there any other Japanese immigrants in the surrounding area?

TM: No, not at all. There was not even a tiny piece of Japanese there. Speaking of the wideness of the area, I couldn't believe how wide it was. Just a plain field. If I could see other houses, they were scattered far away from each other.

TY: It must be very different from Nagano where it is surrounded by mountains.

TM: Yes -- how should I say? I didn't feel like there were mountains in North Dakota. It was too wide. Then we went there to work. Well, I could go to such a place only because I was with my husband. There is no way I could go there by myself, even now. [Laughs]

TY: So, the food was American, too?

TM: Yes, the food was all American. Anyway, my husband couldn't cook, but he started working as a cook, right? I think they hired us knowing the situation. So, there were a couple with two children in the family, living in the American way, you see. We got a room of our own and started working there.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 4>

<Begin Segment 5>

TY: And, you came back to Seattle later.

TM: Yes, yes. It was just too lonesome there. The area was so desolate that you could only see several houses scattered in the field. It was too lonesome. We were too lonely by ourselves. We didn't like that. So, we decided to come back to Seattle.

TY: Then, you had three children in Seattle.

TM: Yes, that's right, three children. One passed away, though. But, the oldest and the youngest...she is visiting me today. I haven't talked about it yet, so I didn't say anything about it. One of them is visiting me here today. She comes quite often. [Ed. note: Mrs. Murayama's youngest daughter was present during the interview at the nursing home.] Well, compared with the past, I think that we can live in America and enjoy the life today even though we don't speak English or can't do anything.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TY: You returned to Japan once, didn't you?

TM: Yes, we went back to Japan. We were there for a while, but we gradually started wanting to go back to the U.S. Back then, we still didn't have airplanes to go to Japan. So, we came back.

TY: I heard the year your family went back to Japan was 1924, the year of the Great Earthquake in Japan. Then, you came back to America again in 1925...

TM: Yes, we came back...

TY: Could you talk about it? Your family came back to Seattle, right?

TM: Yes, we came back to Seattle again.

TY: What kind of job did you have then?

TM: At that time? Back then, what were we doing, I wonder. Let's see...

TY: A grocery store.

TM: Yes, in the beginning, there were not so many Japanese. So, my husband came here, and what did he do...some sort of business he had. My husband did. I didn't have a talent like that, so I just worked. I don't really remember what kind of business we had. Back then...

TY: You two had a grocery store. I heard that you had a family grocery store.

TM: What is it?

TY: A grocery store. Grocery store. You had a grocery store, right?

TM: Yes, that's right. Yes. We had a store. It was a grocery store. And, we made a scanty living by running the business somehow. We had never run a business, but we had to do something, and there was no good job opening at that time. So, we decided to run a business.

TY: Was the store in Nihonmachi?

TM: What about Nihonmachi?

TY: The grocery store.

TM: Yes, I mean, no, it was an American grocery store, selling American food like canned food. We had two places where we bought milk from, you know, the fresh milk. I think we got it from those places. Yes, we bought it from there. So, that kind of grocery store it was. We owned it. Yes. But, people really didn't call us Japanese "Japs" there. It was in uptown [Ed. note: She actually used the word "uptown". She had a business on 25th Street and Dearborn Avenue.], not in Nihonmachi. It was like there were two streets -- uptown and downtown. There were not so many grocery stores in the area like that. So, we ran the grocery store there in uptown. People didn't call us "Jap." Rather, the customers came to see the store out of curiosity and bought groceries from us because they thought it was so rare that Japanese owned a grocery store. So, we ran a business like that. But...

TY: The customers must have been mainly non-Japanese since it was away from Nihonmachi.

TM: Yes, nobody spoke Japanese. Japanese, I don't think they had even seen Japanese before. It was like, some came to shop at our store just for fun, and some just came to peep through the windows to see what was going on. We had a grocery store there. I think we were doing pretty well since we could make a sufficient living. [Laughs] We couldn't even speak English well. Now I look back and think that we were just so bold, and I wonder how we could have done such a thing. We did it in our youthful ardor. We didn't care how we looked to others. Speaking just several words was enough for our grocery store, I guess. [Laughs]


TY: Now we are going back to the story of the grocery store. I heard that you also had a delivery service. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

TM: Let's see. It was uptown there, and it's funny saying "low" [Ed. note: She said "low" indicating downtown.], well it wasn't like that, but it was in uptown. That was where we had a grocery store. People didn't see that many Japanese at that time, so we were blessed and made a sufficient living by running the grocery store. People were curious about the store owned by Japanese, so they often came by to see what it was like. Then, they bought groceries from us. At that time, we had a car, like a small truck. So, we delivered groceries using the car. The customers were happy. It was really hard because just two of us ran the store. We had to do everything from buying to everything else, you see. Of course, my husband worked with me, but it was a very hard work. Neither of us spoke English that well, either. But, we were blessed and we made a profit in our business. We made it. It was fun. Now I think back and see how we didn't know much about things. Now I look back and think how rough we were, well, not rough, but more like, how bold we both were. If it were now, I don't think I would be able to do the same thing because I would be too scared. We did it because we were in our youthful ardor. Anyway, we had a delivery service. We did a lot of things like that, and that made our customers happy and our business prosperous. It worked really well.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 6>

<Begin Segment 7>

TY: Could you talk about your husband?

TM: Let's see. How should I say. I met him through our mutual friends. The couple became our go-betweens. I had known the wife for a long time since we were from the same village. And, they had come over here before us, and their great help made it possible for us to accomplish a lot of things. We weren't lonely because they were there with us. They also taught us many things. In this way, we were able to do such a bold thing even though we couldn't speak English. Now I think about it, it was really fun, but at the same time, it required a great amount of hard work.

TY: So, you met your husband through your mutual friends.

TM: Yes.

TY: What about the first impression? What was the first impression of your husband like?

TM: The first impression. Unlike me, he was a handsome man. I sound like I am speaking too affectionately of my husband [Ed. note: In Japan, it is considered immodest to speak too well of one's spouse.], don't I? I was chubby. See, now I am this skinny, but I was chubby. But, my husband was handsome. I met him at the arranged meeting. The person who arranged the meeting was my school senior. She was a friend of mine. And, she was the go-between. So, I met him and decided I was coming to the United States with him.

TY: You and your husband were very close to each other.

TM: Yes. See, in the country, we were both born and grew up in the countryside of Shinshuu. [Ed. note: Shinshuu is the old name of Nagano Prefecture area.] Then we ended up in a foreign country like the U.S.

TY: So, you were both born in Shinshuu, both you and your husband.

TM: Yes.

TY: You were both from the same area.

TM: Yes.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 7>

<Begin Segment 8>

TY: Okay. Then, after your family owned a grocery store, you went back to Japan once again in 1930s.

TM: Yes, We went back to Japan again. We thought that this time we could finally settle in Japan, but again, it didn't work. No matter what we did, we had already seen the large scale of America. After seeing that, we just couldn't be satisfied living in Japan, so again, we came back to the U.S. It was a ship. We didn't have airplanes yet back then. Later on, airplanes became available. Not only me, but many people started traveling on the airplanes. It only takes a day on the airplane? Something like that, if you take airplane, right? It doesn't go like that by ship. It takes many more than ten days if we come by ship.


TY: You went back to Japan and settled in Suginami-ku, Tokyo. Then, after that you lived in Japan for a long time, right?

TM: Yes, we were there for a long time, but once again, it didn't work. [Laughs]

TY: I heard that two of your daughters went back to the U.S. shortly after the end of the war.

TM: Yes, that's right.

TY: But, you chose to stay in Japan?

TM: Yes, I remained in Japan. But, I had seen America, you know. It is so wide and you can do anything. Everybody is relaxed here and I missed it. I wanted to come back here again.

TY: So, you came back to the U.S. once again after your husband and the middle daughter passed away.

TM: Yes, that's right.

TY: You came on an airplane then.

TM: Yes.

TY: One of your daughters lives in Seattle, right?

TM: Yes, she was visiting me today.

TY: That's why you came back to Seattle?

TM: Now, the older daughter lives in Los Angeles. She can't come to Seattle too often. She can't come unless there is something important. I can't ask her to come visit me.

TY: Yes, it's far away from Los Angeles.

TM: Yes.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 8>

<Begin Segment 9>

TY: This year, in 1998, the Winter Olympic was held in Nagano Prefecture.

TM: Yes, so I have heard.

TY: You watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on TV, right? Has it changed much from the Nagano that you remember?

TM: Well, you can't really tell from the television because the only place you can see is the ski slopes. But, I am sure it has changed.

TY: It has been a hundred years.

TM: Yes.

TY: Could you tell me about Nagano from a hundred years ago?

TM: It has been a hundred years.

TY: Please tell me something about mountains, fields, and river of the place where you grew up in Nagano.

TM: Let's see. Where I was born, well, what was it called? There was a lake there, wasn't there. A lake. What prefecture was it, where there was a lake.

TY: Near your house in Nagano.

TM: Yes. There was a lake, and a river, a big river called the Tenryu River was flowing from it. That is the source. The lake is the source of the river. It is the Lake Suwa where the river is flowing from. Yes, it is called the Lake Suwa. There is a river at the lake. Kawagishi-mura, we called the village Kawagishi-mura, and the lake water truly is the source of the river. I was born near the river. That's where I was born. There was a lake, and a big river was flowing from it. The village was named Kawagishi-mura from the lake and the river. That kind of village. I was born there.

TY: What was the daily life like? The whole area is surrounded by mountains and river and fields, right?

TM: Yes, right. Mountains.

TY: You had wild plants from mountains and fish from the river.

TM: Yes, and the village near the river which flows from the lake where we caught fish is called Kawagishi-mura. I was born there. Yes, it was right in the mountains.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 9>

<Begin Segment 10>

TY: I heard that you got the U.S. citizenship last year at the age 102.

TM: Yes.

TY: Congratulations.

TM: Yes, it was just a while ago. I got the citizenship. I know that this country will be my last home, so getting the citizenship is not a big deal, you know. But, I was told that it is better to get one, so I finally became a barely qualified U.S. citizen among others. [Laughs]

TY: So, you finally settled in the U.S. after years of going back and forth between here and Japan in your life.

TM: Yes, that's right. After all, this place became my last home. [Laughs]

TY: Thank you very much. Thank you for telling us many interesting stories.

Take M. Interview - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 10>