Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yasashi Ichikawa Interview I
Narrator: Yasashi Ichikawa
Interviewer: Tomoyo Yamada
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: October 16, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-iyasashi-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

[Translated from Japanese]

TY: So how many members were there in your church or temple? In Fresno.

YI: Let me see. It was quite big. I don't remember exactly, but the women's organization had about one hundred people in membership.

TY: That many? Speaking of the location of the temple, was it located in Japantown? In a downtown area?

YI: Most temples are located in Japantowns.

TY: Well, the Japanese farmers must have lived far away then.

YI: In those days, there were not many temples. So a reverend would go to outlying areas to conduct the service.

TY: What kind of service was it?

YI: The reverend went on Sundays to talk, to teach at Sunday school or give a howakai which is a sermon. A sermon was given also in the evenings. The ministers went out to outlying areas from Fresno, but they don't have to do that now because there are many temples.

TY: Do the temples in Japan have a sermon or other services on Sundays?

YI: Yes, they do in Japan, too.


TY: I would like you to talk about Fresno again.

YI: As I said before, the church, the temple in Fresno was quite large and had four or five ministers. And the ministers were mainly engaged in temple affairs -- the work which had to do with Buddha. But it also had a Japanese language school. There were several Japanese language schools in Fresno and in the countryside. The ministers worked in those schools. In Japanese. The Nisei went to Japanese language schools and therefore quite a few of them speak Japanese. Though when it came to third and fourth generations, fewer and fewer people can speak.

TY: Well, if there were five, four or five ministers, then Reverend Ichikawa was not the only one with a wife, was he?

YI: There was a head minister above me. He was from Hiroshima. His name was Mr. Kyogoku. He was wonderful. He passed away, but his daughter still lives in the Washington, D.C. area.

TY: You said earlier that there were about one hundred members in the women's organization.

YI: Yes. There were between eighty and one hundred.

TY: What were the functions of the women's organization?

YI: The women's organization?

TY: What kind of functions did it...?

YI: Oh, that. Same as now. President, secretary, and someone to handle money, accounting. That was all for the cabinet officials.

TY: What kind of things did the women's organization do?

YI: What kind of things... We had a monthly sermon. A minister gave a talk. We visited the sick people, visited some patients in the hospitals. Sometimes we learned a craft or something else. Also we had a temple picnic. Nothing has changed. What the temple does is the same.

TY: Then, as a minister's wife, did you have a big role to play in the women's organization?

YI: The women's organization...

TY: Within the club. Some role to play. As a minister's wife.

YI: Oh, I see. In those days, the wife of the head minister was the president, and so I did not do anything special. After she moved away, I did mainly... nowadays, the wives of the ministers do not necessarily become presidents. The president is elected among the general members. All the officers. Even now as we speak, a women's group meeting is being held. Etsuko is the English secretary. They need the minutes in both languages. Still. Etsuko is the English secretary, and somebody from Japan is writing in English. I mean, in Japanese.

TY: You said that you had Sunday schools and visited people on Sundays. Do they have a Sunday school in Japan?

YI: Yes, we've always had that in Japan. Although it was not very prevalent. In recent times most places are doing it. Sunday school. There are various meetings. The youth group, the women's group and other groups. The temples are more active these days.

TY: Even before you came to America, did the temples have such youth group or women's group?

YI: Yes, there were. We had a women's group. My mother was the leader. The priest's wife took care of the group. We had a flag for the women's group.

TY: In your family. Your mother must have been very busy. With seven children and also the women's group.

YI: Yes, with so many children, I bet she was very busy. That's why I was taken care of by my grandmother. Because my mother was too busy.

TY: But then, when you grew older, did you help with the women's group?

YI: Do you mean the women' group business?

TY: When you were a child, as you got older...

YI: I did not do anything. When I was a young girl. I was not even a member of the women's group.

TY: What is the age to join the women's group? Were there age limits?

YI: Well, mostly married people. In those days, the due was only five sen or six sen. The annual due. It was so cheap, less than ten sen.

TY: With the money, did they have a dinner or something?

YI: America was much more advanced in that area. More than Japan. In America, we copied what the Caucasians were doing. From the olden days.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.