Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda Interview II
Narrator: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 6, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-itsuguo-02

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Today is October 6, 2000, and we're here interviewing with Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda. I'm Alice Ito with the Densho Project, and Dana Hoshide is videographer. Thanks very much again for speaking with us. And I wanted to go back in time once more to the 1940s when you were in high school in Portland, Oregon. And you kept a clippings scrapbook from the newspapers. And I noticed, you were showing me that some of the clippings, and they had to do with the currents events of the day. And, of course, one of the current events was relations between Japan and the U.S. And some of the headlines were pretty big, showing that there were some diplomatic breakdowns between the U.S. and Japan. And I wanted to ask you, as you saw those headlines and you were clipping out those articles, what you thought, if you thought that there truly was the possibility of war between the two countries.

TI: Yeah. I had no guess that there would be such a thing as a war with Japan. I felt those clippings were important because anything about Japanese in Japan or Japanese Americans in America were important information to keep.

AI: But at the time, it didn't enter your head?

TI: No. Like you reviewed recently, it's very interesting how initially the newspaper used the term Nikkei, or a Japanese American, or something of that order rather than later, "Japs." So at least the atmosphere from a newspaper standpoint was fairly reasonable toward us.

AI: And I recall, too, we were looking at your scrapbook and saw a page of articles that included a pretty favorable, sympathetic editorial from The Oregon Journal...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...about Japanese Americans, and in fact, the Japanese American Citizens League National Convention in Portland that year. You also clipped out some articles having to do with blacks, or as it was written at the time, "Negroes," and their struggle against discrimination, and also some articles about other ethnic groups, European Americans. And I was wondering what your thoughts were at that time as a high schooler?

TI: Right. Well, in camp, I made a vow to myself that this kind of incarceration experience will not happen to any other group of people. So that was the driving thing. And what I did or the kinds of clippings that I kept, I just felt we needed to work together to bring about a better understanding. So it became natural for me.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, speaking of camp, another activity of yours that I wanted to ask a little more about was the development or the establishment of your high school at Minidoka camp. And if you could tell us a little bit about that because usually a person, student, child who's going to school, you just go to a school that's already established.

TI: Right.

AI: Now, in this case, what happened?

TI: Well, we had to really construct the school, in a sense, organize it completely. There was nothing. So we had contests on name, nickname -- Wolver, Wolverines. And purple and gold were our colors. And then had to have a song, which I don't remember. But then it meant we had a need to organize clubs too, like the "Hi-Y" and then organize dances, which I loved to do. And so, because -- a similar sort of thing happened with church. It was a recreational barracks. And this area is noted for sand all over the place, continuous, continuously in the floors. And so we had the privilege, in a way, of cleaning that room out (each Sunday) and then set up the chairs for our church. So everything had to be done by us. And you felt a part of it because of our level of participation. So that experience was like I had a horse blinders, you just shut out the fences. And used to be my theme song, "Don't Fence Me In." At that time, that really had a special meaning to me. But, just concentrate on helping to organize the school in all aspects, and how to elect officers and all that involvement. I had the good fortune to be involved. I ended up really enjoying the school life, church life as well. And it's just been a positive experience for me.

AI: Well, in fact, I was looking back at some of your records, and it showed that you were quite active, that you were a representative to the student council, that, in fact, you had to form that student council from scratch, didn't you?

TI: Yeah. That's right. Yeah.

AI: And also I think you were very active also in the federated church...

TI: Yes.

AI: camp?

TI: The thing that I really enjoyed was, just prior to the war, in November, YPCC or Young People's Christian Conference was held in Seattle. So this is where I first met Seattleites from variety of churches. And when we came to Minidoka, lot of folks from other churches were put together as one, the Federated Christian Church, which I felt was really great. And the tragedy was, once we got out, came back to Portland or Seattle, we segregated ourselves again by denominations.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, one other incident before we leave the '40s, 1940s, I wanted to ask you about was, that in your diary, you mentioned a visit from Minoru or Min Yasui?

TI: Yes.

AI: And if you could tell a little bit about him. He was, I think, pretty well-known among the Japanese Americans because as a, in Portland, he had defied the curfew order and then turned himself in. What do you recall about him and this visit?

TI: Well, I had mixed feelings because, on the one hand we were taught to obey orders. And here was a Nisei who -- [laughs] -- defied it. And first time I ever met a Nisei who was so outspoken and had conviction and could articulate it. This is why I noted in my diary that he made a real impression on me.

AI: And I believe this was around December of 1942?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And then did you think that he was justified in his defiance?

TI: Well, at the time I was a conservative Japanese American. And I thought he was disobeying. So I had that attitude to overcome. Listening to him I was really inspired -- one of the few Niseis who were outspoken that way. So it was very important to have heard him.

AI: So although he was disobeying in a sense -- in fact, it was civil disobedience that he was doing -- in another sense, he was also upholding some principles that you were thinking about.

TI: Right. But at the time, you know, we'd been taught to obey. And so, on the one hand, I felt he was being disobedient, and then, but his conviction really inspired me, and I respect, so because he was that unique a person, Nisei.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, now moving ahead in time, going to skip back ahead to your years at Lewis & Clark College. This is after the war now. And in 1948, you were again a very, continuing to be a very active person, and you tried out for the yell squad.

TI: Yes.

AI: Tell me, what did you have to do for that and what happened?

TI: Well, actually I really didn't have the skills doing that, yelling. I used to observe Bobby Imai, a fellow from Seattle, who had done yell leading. So I copied his style. And by chance, our team was approved by the school to represent them as a yell leader (team).

AI: And so as the yell leader then, what was your responsibility?

TI: Well, to select my team. So that's what I did.

AI: Now, you selected a team that was rather unusual for the time. The names of the people that you selected were Leslie Clerin, Bob Tabor, and Ruby Brock. And I wanted to ask you to read this item that appeared in the newspaper about your team.

TI: Yeah. "Lewis & Clark College ignores race prejudice. Portland's Lewis & Clark College proudly points to its cheering squad as example of the school's attitude toward race relations. Elected yell leader by the student body last year was Tsuguo 'Ike' Ikeda, who in turn appointed to his squad Ruby Brock, a Negro student, and Leslie Clerin, who was white, and Robert Tabor, who was white too."

AI: And here is a photo.

TI: Yes. This is Ruby and Tabor and Leslie and myself. We had a good time. I remember one time we were playing the football team in Vancouver, British Columbia, this big stadium. (We had a) leader's cone. One student from Canada grabbed that megaphone and started running around the stadium. And I had to try to run and retrieve it. I was really embarrassed. [Laughs] I still remember that. It was a good, school was comfortable with the minorities that were there, and so I felt a part of it.

AI: Now, Lewis & Clark College in Portland was not a very big college?

TI: No.

AI: Approximately what size was it?

TI: Something like 1,200 at the time.

AI: And I think I read that there was maybe about a dozen Japanese American students...

TI: Yeah.

AI: the time you were there?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And a handful of other racial minorities?

TI: Yeah. Very few African Americans.

AI: And tell me a little bit about the feeling or the atmosphere for you and the other students who were racial minorities.

TI: Well, I never talked about that with, like with Ruby, who was a Negro. But I felt, based on my prior experience of deploring way America treated us as Japanese Americans, that I wanted to fight that kind of thing. And I felt having a yell team, mixed yell team, would be a way to communicate certain values. And it was a lot of fun. We had a good time together.

AI: So while you were having a good time, you were communicating something?

TI: Yes. Yes. It's goodwill toward each other, and toward the student body, and toward other opposition schools that we're fighting for.

AI: Now, it sounds very positive. I'm wondering, did you ever face anything negative as a mixed team like that?

TI: I don't recall. I believe I would have recalled if it was really bad. I was fortunate that the school was small. They were accepting what we were trying to do, and felt proud about what we did, too, based on the article.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, something else I noticed in the information you gave me about Lewis & Clark was the fraternity situation.

TI: Yes.

AI: And Lewis & Clark did not allow national fraternities at the time, but you did have local fraternities. And in fact, you were able to join one.

TI: Yes.

AI: Can you tell a little bit about that? The name of your fraternity and the nature of...

TI: Well, as I recall, we were Alpha Rho Omega. [Laughs] I can't, my memory is so bad. We had initiation to get it in, and it was clean fun. We did our little activities together. And again, I had the good fortune to be part of several experiences like that. All of this being involved started on the basis of my work in the church, in high school, then becoming part of the youth fellowship group, and finding a lot of fun there. Because home was limited to going to school, going, after that going to Japanese school, coming home, eat, study. That's it. So it was a very closed experience. Once I had a chance to start in being involved in the church, it opened up more doors for me. And then as I went on to college, I got involved again, too. So I felt a sense of comfort in doing that based on my earlier experiences.

AI: So although you were active in many different kinds of organizations and groups, it sounds like the one constant was some sort of church-related activity...

TI: Yes. Yes. Uh-huh.

AI: ...and that was a constant, stable aspect of your life...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...over the years.

TI: Whatever city I went to -- Monterey, California, or Minnesota, or Salt Lake City where I initially moved from the camp, I quickly found where the Japanese church was located and built my friendship right away. It didn't take long. So that really helped me in my loneliness of being in a strange city, a community and finding some common bond.

AI: And do you think that this, the church and church-related activities played a similar role for other Japanese Americans at that time?

TI: Well, I was the only social worker. And for a majority of the Niseis, it was pretty much limited to church. I didn't see 'em getting involved in other community groups. But I just had the privilege of being involved in so many things that it became very comfortable doing that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, now I'd like to skip ahead in time again. And now in Seattle, Washington you were attending the University of Washington School of Social Work. And as you mentioned earlier in an earlier conversation, you were one of two Japanese Americans, two Nisei...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...students in the School of Social Work. And at the time you were also an advisor for a college-age group of young Japanese Americans connected with the Methodist, the Japanese Methodist Church here in Seattle. And that's where you met your wife-to-be, Sumi.

TI: Yes.

AI: Please tell us a little bit about Sumi and where she came from...

TI: Right. Well, Sumi was from Hilo, Hawaii. And she came to Seattle to attend and graduate from Garfield High School. So she came here for her senior year and stayed with her uncle on Jackson Street. And because I was an advisor to the college-age group, although I was not much older, but I happened to be someone willing to organize the group. And we had a contest that we ended up with Duz, Duz everything and ended up with the name Duzzers. And we did all kinds of activities. And again, I was spoiled. I had a good time.

One problem the minister had was that Reverend Paul Hagiya (had a problem) -- we wouldn't go home. [Laughs] We stayed at the church. So he had to kick us out regularly from church on Sunday. And most of us were all college students. And it was unique we were able to build up that to fifty students. It was quite an involved process of developing programs and sharing the responsibilities. Having small work groups, (which) did (lead) one activity (every) four or five weeks before (each small group would provide leadership in managing an activity). So it was communal mix, socializing, and building friendships.

AI: And during the course of all that activity and relationship building, you met and got to know Sumi...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and then you did, last interview session, you did talk about how you then eventually married her.

TI: Yes.

AI: And tell me a little bit more about her. Now, she grew up in Hawaii.

TI: Yes.

AI: So, did she have any knowledge of the internment of people here on the West Coast or what happened to you?

TI: I don't think so. I don't think she was aware of that. And I'm assuming blackouts or censorship or stuff we were experiencing wouldn't necessarily be shared in the Hawaii newspaper. But being part of a youth group, college-age group, I was able to build a friendship with Sumi and finally decided to get married. The first year at School of Social Work I was a houseboy. And (this) gave me my board and room. And then I had my GI Bill. Then following that, I was (for) a full year was a resident advisor at the UW. So when I finally graduated with my master's degree in social work, I was broke, wanted to get married. And so I heard working at Alaska cannery you can make a lot money, rumor. So I was able to get into a crew of, which was made up primarily of Filipino Americans, one Chinese American, one white, and me, Japanese American. And...

AI: You know, I wanted to ask you about that. You did mention this on our earlier conversation, but I don't think I asked you at that time about the race relations among that team because, of course, this was shortly, still not that long after World War II...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...and the divisions and even hatred between Japanese nationals and Filipino...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...nationals was very strong. And even sometimes Filipino Americans and Japanese Americans had some feelings. What, was that a problem among your crew?

TI: No. In fact, the work crew appoint, elected me as a shop steward for the union. Then, I didn't do too much on that. But the fact that they respected me as Japanese American to be the lead person with the authorities felt good too, of course.

AI: And what were conditions like, from your point of view as the shop steward? Were there some conditions there that were a problem?

TI: Well, one major problem occurred (when) we were initially allowed to salt salmon. But the manager thought that a big salmon, king salmon was stolen and cut up and salted. So he thought something like that was happening. I didn't think that was happening, but he got so mad he destroyed all these barrels of salmon. Threw 'em all away. That really hurt. Then on top of that, the year was a poor salmon year, so we didn't make that much money, but (I got) enough (money) to get married in the fall of '51.

AI: So you came back and you got married. And then, and last time you related a little bit about that story and how you really had a reception on a shoestring.

TI: Yes. Still recall for $25, we would have (to cover) the costs of having a wedding and a reception. There was, all the Duzzers helped make all these sandwiches. Then we went to Mercer Island to cut the ferns to put them out. And then Sumi's sister in Hilo sent vanda orchids, and so we dispersed them out. And my brother from Portland was a baker, so he baked a cake. And then the minister said we could use the car for our honeymoon. So we really spent about a week using the minister's automobile. He was very gracious about that. We were one of the first couple to marry in the church, young people, and then gradually more and more were married.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, and then it was a few years later in 1954 that your first child was born, Wanda?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And then you had three other daughters as well...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...Helen, Julie, and Patricia. And I wanted to ask you about their names because in, with other Nisei I've talked to, some of them consciously decided not to give their children Japanese names. I was wondering if you and Sumi ever discussed this or how you decided on the girls' names.

TI: Yeah. Well, we wanted to have a Japanese name that was easy, especially in defense of my name. It was extremely difficult for people to remember, and that's why I ended up with the nickname, Ike. So we ended up as an example, Kiyo is simple and then some others' name. And then, or Amy, Wanda Amy Ikeda, which a close friend of ours is Amy Kobayashi. So we chose names that were easy to say and write.

AI: Now, as the girls were growing up, did you ever talk to them about your experience during World War II and about the camps?

TI: No, I never did. And even to this day they haven't asked for or asked me what was it like. And so like many Niseis we never communicate. I know one sociologist, a Nisei, who said that the Niseis have a difficult time in communicating, 'cause we did very little communicating with our parents other than saying, "Hai," that's it. And even that, you have to say it in a polite hai. [Laughs]

AI: And for those who don't understand what that means...

TI: "Yes." You know, you always obey your parents and others who are older than you. So we really didn't get to know our parents as persons. At least I didn't and felt I missed out. But at the time the cultural values were such that we were, we were, it was impolite to ask personal questions of our parents, so we didn't. And...

AI: And then when your own children came along, you didn't have any tradition of having that kind of conversation in the family?

TI: Yeah. So my skills in communicating certain levels like our family, is, wasn't that great. I just kept my mouth shut. Because of my work, I used to work a lot, a lot of nights, go to conferences all over the place. So I felt guilty. And so I asked the girls about my guilt feeling. They said, "No." They understood what I was doing. So that was reassuring to me that, that they supported me for being away so much.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Well, now speaking about your work, you got very involved in your work not just as executive director of Atlantic Street Center, but very quickly you got involved in the larger arena of issues -- first around juvenile justice. And last time you told us about some of that work that you did including on a state-wide and regional basis to start changing the nature of system's response to youth who were in trouble. And now I want to shift the focus a little bit toward the '60s, when as I understand it, around the '60s is a time when the first concepts of "ethnic pride" started developing, because that was also the era of the Civil Rights movement really becoming prominent. And I wonder if you could just give me a feeling of that decade of the '60s, what it was like for you in your work, in your position, and the people that you were working with, what were the big issues at that time and what you were focusing on.

TI: Well, at the local level, there was issues about equal job rights. And I know one time I was picketing Sea-Tac Airport.

AI: You did talk about that last time, yes.

TI: Yeah. It was a frightening experience for me because I saw these white officers from the smaller towns who rarely had experienced confrontation. And I could see by their faces they were scared. If they were scared, it's dangerous.

AI: It's dangerous because...?

TI: Because they, they may get trigger-happy or try to say they're being attacked. So they'd use force. So in order to cool it down somewhat, me and an African American screened all the young people that were picketing, and those Caucasian students especially who had the sticks but not the poster on it. We threw them over the fence. And ease off this confrontational approach of just using a stick, versus a sign. That sort of thing. When I went to a national conference in New York City, there was a march in New York City, and toward, ended up in the Sears Roebuck for unfair employment practices. So we, (I) demonstrated.

AI: Now, this sounds to me still somewhat unusual for a Japanese American to be rather active in demonstrating in public.

TI: Yes.

AI: Did you feel like you were sticking out, or did you...?

TI: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And I knew most of my friends, Japanese American friends, didn't do that sort of thing. And...

AI: Why did you choose to do this?

TI: It goes back to my commitment to myself about, in the camp that this injustice will not continue. That I needed to be involved. And so based on my work relationships and extended relationship with others across the country, I quickly got in tune with rabble-rousing and protesting, and felt comfortable doing that.

AI: Even though you felt comfortable doing it and it was part of your own personal commitment, did you ever receive any negative comment from, possibly from other Japanese Americans or others about this activity?

TI: Yes. I felt that I wasn't behaving according to the norm among other fellow Niseis. But it was part of the work culture I was in, which I felt comfortable in. And so I was in a way fortunate to be in that environment where I could be involved. And it's kind of like Min Yasui, at, being different, being able to learn how to speak out, protest, organize. So I, I don't blame other Niseis for not being involved. It's just that the work that they were involved in precluded this kind of firsthand experience which I had.

AI: So for example, if a person was, for example an engineer in a corporation, it might be much more difficult for them to speak out than for a person like yourself.

TI: Yeah. For most Niseis who worked at Boeing, they had the opportunity to really increase their level of responsibility where so-called "glass ceiling" was there. And times were rough for young Niseis. Whereas I was somewhat free in my environment and fellow workers were involved, and so it felt more and more comfortable, even though I knew that kind of behavior was not acceptable.

AI: In the Japanese American community?

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Now, also during the '60s, there was a development of this, at the time it was called Black Pride and Black Power.

TI: State that again?

AI: Black Pride and Black Power.

TI: Oh, yes. Yeah.

AI: Please tell a little bit about this concept and this feeling and why this was so significant.

TI: Yeah. Well, at that time, Seattle (Model City Program) was getting in a way involved in the community groups.

AI: The (Model City Program)?

TI: Yes. And then I was in a committee working with delinquents' issues. And one of the outstanding residents of the community just -- she had a certain agenda, and she wouldn't, she would talk out loud to control the whole meeting so that no business could be conducted and approved. That went on for several weeks. [Laughs] So even in that environment, you probably get to develop some programs. And I felt like during the model cities they had, they call new careers or paraprofessionals, paraprofessionals, social worker or educator or nurse or everything is paraprofessional. But I felt the word "para," parallel lines never meet. And we who got our degrees made sure they didn't cross the line to take over our jobs. So kind of a defensive reaction. But I felt that was wrong. And so in a particular project, group home project, we hired young college students, African Americans, to be the counselors to younger kids. I felt that these young people who were going to the university, were motivated. They saw a clear direction they were pursuing. And I felt they would be a great role model for these younger blacks who were disheartened, so that they could communicate naturally, saying, "As part of my work life as a young African American."

But at same time, I felt, you know, this term "Black is Beautiful," I thought naturally right away saying, "Yellow is Beautiful." But in our society, yellow is usually a sign of cowardice, so I couldn't use that label. I didn't feel comfortable with it. And I was searching for anything that would make me feel good about myself as a Japanese American rather than as a "Jap." And I couldn't find it. So they had Peter's Principle, so times later, I thought, why not Ike's Principles? You see, what are those values that I was taught at Japanese school or from other relationship with the Japanese community that really helped sustain me? So I began to search these values and what would help me.

So just to give one example, ikebana was one of my principles. And ikebana, from a American standpoint culture, it's, tends to be bouquet. You need a lot of flower resources to result in a bouquet. And we have a bouquet mentality for everything, so that we're never satisfied with what we have. We want more. And whereas so-called Japanese mentality was that in developing ikebana flower arrangement, you only need a few resources. So once you accept that kind of an attitude, that with a few resources you could do something significant like having a great ikebana display. It really changed my attitude about myself and about the little agency I was the director of, and begin to move, a simple concept opened more doors, and it meant focusing my energy more on the agency. It came to a point where I felt I needed to change the whole agency. It started in 1910, and by 1955 or '56, 1956 point, I really questioned what we were doing. We had all kinds of wonderful programs -- preschool, senior citizen, troubled youth, programs in housing project, urban renewal. But all I was doing was, it's like that example of a dish. You twirl on a stick and you keep twirling, but after a certain point, all the dishes start to fall because you can't get back to it, keep it twirling. I began to wonder what value, why did I go through the School of Social Work to have a lot of these so-called happy time experiences? On the surface, it looked great. I believed we needed to concentrate our limited resources in one area. And as example, instead of a plate of water, you pour that content, resource into a test tube. You've got depth to it. Same amount of limited resource.

And that began to drive me toward development of a much more sophisticated research-oriented, developing knowledge, testing knowledge out, and helping to regain the skills of how do you plan. We did it by way of a state-planning contract we received. Only state in the nation where private little agency were doing the planning for a city. And I was able to get a structural engineer as my design team from Boeing. Later I recommended Bernie Salazar to quit Boeing and become the planning director for model cities. But in the meantime I hired him during the evenings. And then I hired economist from Boeing who was one of the top thinker in reducing the work force by 50 percent in 1970 at Boeing, and still save the guts of Boeing.

So I had all kinds of unusual, talented people to help design this state plan. And the end result was that our state plan compared to other plans across the United States, was one of the most systematic planning models in the United States. And that's the direction I wanted to go toward, qualitative effort, focused in order to do it. And then completing a seven-year study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. It was a premiere funding source to do qualitative research.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: So you were just telling us about the, how you began the development of your principles or what you sometimes call Ike's Principles?

TI: Yes.

AI: And I'm wondering if you would tell us a little bit more about that in relationship to your work?

TI: Yes. Well, I am consciously functioning with certain ideas in mind. And the more I thought about that, experiences, it helped crystallize the development of the principle. For instance, the second principle on gaman, "keep on trucking." One example will show that the regional office at that time of Health Education and Welfare called me up, and said, "Ike, I know you're interested in research, so why don't you submit a proposal to develop the first Asian American mental health research center?" So I said, "Great." "You've got one month." One month. So I knew from day one that it was going to be difficult, that there would be a lot of no-nos, and discouraging points of view. I got a call from my friend in Los Angeles. And (he told me), "I hear you're thinking about putting in a proposal." And essentially he says, "Bug off. We already got a proposal in." And I told him that if his proposal was the best in the nation, then nation is blessed and the Japanese community would be blessed. And if by chance what we're drafting is the best, then the Japanese community would be benefiting. I brought together about a dozen (Asian) American researchers from the UW to the center. And after couple of hours of discussion, they told me, "We can't participate because this is not a university-controlled study. It's community-based. So, sorry." There went the heart of the research. Without researchers -- [laughs] -- it just wouldn't work. But I had this gaman attitude of bearing with, irregardless. And so fortunately, I had that three-year state planning methodology that we developed. I was quickly able to re-formulate it, as it relates to this proposed research center.

And then I thought the $250,000 budget spread over the United States was, would be too diluted. So our proposal draft was within Northwest region. You get more bang for the buck that way by concentrating your efforts. Well, the National Institute of Mental Health, (said) they were interested in what we were proposing, so they came, did a site visit. I had brought together some Japanese American students (from the) School of Social Work, and then I had one person who happened to be a researcher/nursing specialist. And so with that, I devised this proposal. It was about forty pages within two weeks. Well, then I called these researchers back again and say, "Here's our plan. What do you think? Come on. Let's, come on in." One of the major reasons why we didn't want the university control is that they get those indirect costs. About 40 percent of the budget would be overhead to the university, and only 60 percent would be to the community. We wanted complete community control. They were somewhat surprised that I had come up with a plan within the short time. And they agreed to come in. They had all been working on many proposals. And so before I knew it, I had a thick proposal. I had all the resume, which was extensive, plus they had many (more) proposals.

When the site (visitor) came and reviewed our proposal, they were impressed, but said, "There's one little problem. It's for the Northwest, and this has to be a national project." And they said, "Tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. at Sea-Tac Airport, we're leaving. So if you want to revise it, you're welcome because we like what you propose." So the only person available was this nurse/researcher. The two of us said, "Okay. Let's get back together at 7 o'clock p.m. -- it was 4:30 we (completed rewriting the proposal). (We) completely redid the (proposal) in five or six hours. This gaman attitude really kept us focused on getting the thing written. And in our estimation it was a better proposal. I got a copy of the Los Angeles proposal, which was university-connected.

AI: Now, excuse me. I know that you started off using this as an example of the gaman principle...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...but I also want to know what is the end of the story? What happened? Was the proposal funded, and did you end up starting an Asian American research center?

TI: Well, what happened is we didn't get the proposal. But I felt, internally I felt good that we did complete (the) proposal in a ridiculously short time. And found out this other proposal was a very poor proposal than mine, but they had very good connections. And so they were approved. San Diego State University was university-connected relationship. The principal investigator of the research center had problems with San Diego State, so they terminated that contract. They took a year or two before they were able to find (the) University of Chicago to undertake as a fiscal agent. Progress really got delayed. So the assumption I had taken, community-based control and the methodology we laid out as our plan, for a variety of reasons wasn't accepted. But I felt good that we had tried. I had series of other experiences like, similar to that. It really reinforced that gaman principle of determination, not be deterred by no time, no money, not enough people to help you. You could use all kinds of excuse. So we just learned how to not be discouraged. And this attitude really helped me with many other project experiences.

And it just, pick another example, ikebana, as I mentioned earlier -- although I'm not a flower grower and that sort of thing. What I've read is that it does take only a few flowers resource and, if they're arranged in a certain disciplined way, it can be very powerful versus maybe even more powerful than a dozen roses and have a lot of resources. So instead of having a bouquet mentality, I thought of this ikebana mentality, that having the agency, Atlantic Street Center being small and poor, I felt (if) we concentrate that energy we can do something powerful. And we ended up doing that. So it's ended up opening more doors and being involved in, on a national level to develop juvenile justice, standard goals for juvenile and delinquency prevention. And we wrote a 800-page document. We had national authorities come in on different aspects like courts, correctional system, educational system, community-based system to come out with this report. But of course, good old American style is that we don't do more than plan. We don't follow through. But anyway, just the power I thought I had with what I had, that I didn't need to have more money, more staff, opened many, many doors. And so that developed into this ikebana mentality, the principle.

So that's how these eleven principles developed through my own great experiences I had, struggles I had and beginning to formulate that -- there's something to what I have been taught early in life -- that the Japanese culture was positive and can be very powerful, rather than have a former attitude I had, "Well, everyone else sees me as a 'Jap,' and therefore, I was a 'Jap.'" No longer accepting that. (At the) same time feeling proud of the (Japanese) heritage I was taught and formed over the years (was) very powerful. Having this positive attitude towards your own culture has strengthened me, too. So this is why I came up with this Ike's Principles, trying to empower other people as well. Because it comes down to our attitude -- all of my principles -- change your attitude towards what you're doing, you can do a whole lot. It's been a great experience working out these principles and continue trying to refine them.

AI: Thank you for explaining that.

TI: Yes.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: I wanted to ask you, Ike, about organizations that you've been involved with, and one that was rather controversial at the time was Planned Parenthood. And if you could talk about -- now, in 1965, you were active on one of their committees. And times have changed so much between then and now. What was the attitude toward Planned Parenthood at that time?

TI: Oh, it was quite negative. It was just a taboo subject. There was very little community support for it. So that was interesting, because of that, well -- let's fight it. [Laughs] So being involved in such groups was in line with my philosophy in the work I did at the agency of righting wrongs, organizing to do that, and bringing people's attention to the issues that that particular agency was about. And so as a Nisei I didn't feel intimidated by it at all. I enjoyed it.

AI: Now, Planned Parenthood was well-known for providing contraception education, birth control education...

TI: Yeah.

AI: young people?

TI: Yeah.

AI: And at that time...

TI: Oh, this was back in '65, that's quite early. Now it's a little better. In fact, it was interesting how the two vice president candidates related to the issue of abortion, about that particular pill. And so at least for those two gentlemen, they were able, as gentlemen, to talk about it.

AI: And you're referring to last night, we had the vice presidential debates...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...between Cheney and Lieberman.

TI: Yeah.

AI: And of course, abortion has been legal in the U.S. for some time. But in 1965, abortion was still illegal.

TI: Yeah.

AI: Now, when you got involved in Planned Parenthood and the issues of contraception education, I'm assuming that's partly because of the population that you were serving. You were serving youth and young people?

TI: Yeah. Yeah. It was, there was a connection with the agency's direction of services. And you just can't focus, just emphasis on that kid and family, but you got to look at the environment in which they were living in. And Planned Parenthood in my eyes, was providing a needed service. And even though it was not being accepted by the general community, I just felt it was appropriate and something that had to be done.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Now, you explained earlier how you worked with Atlantic Street Center to focus very carefully the services of Atlantic Street Center. But at the same time, you recognized that there were many other services and needs that were not being met...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and in fact, a great many needs in the Asian community. Can you tell me a little bit about the organizations you helped start up that, to meet some of these needs?

TI: Well, helping in a way of providing facilities was for the Filipino youth activities. And they were still quite young in development. But they had their drill team and needed space. So we had a little playfield they could use and had their meetings at the center. (For two years) we had about eight Asian American social workers who were concerned about getting some kind of counseling services available to Asian Americans. And for two years we talked and talked and talked. And then fortunately, there was enough of a momentum (in) developing a volunteer-based counseling service at Blaine Memorial Methodist Church came to be.

And with the help of Dr. Masuda's class at the University of Washington, they were able to devise an intake data-collecting system and analyze who came, type of problems, what was done. All that was done in a very professional way. And as a result, the first year when they applied to the United Way, they surprised United Way with such a fine document, and it's a volunteer effort. And so they quickly were accepted as part of the United Way family.

AI: And this organization became known as...

TI: The Asian Counseling and Referral Service. And that group has become a huge, couple-million-dollar-or-so operation today, and doing an excellent piece of work.

AI: But at that time, which was the early 1970s, again, the situation was quite different from now, where it, my understanding is that people outside of the white mainstream often did not seek services, health or mental health services, and if they did seek help, often couldn't receive it.

TI: You're right.

AI: Can you tell a little bit more about why that was?

TI: Well that was part of the discussion. There weren't very many Asian American providers. It was primarily Caucasian. The ability or inability of other folks to be more sensitive and supportive of persons from Asian American communities was an issue we addressed. But at that time, there were practically no other Asian American social service programs. When you look at year 2000, we have a powerful Asian Counseling and Referral Service, as I mentioned over $2 million dollar budget. We have a International District Health Clinic, we have International District Housing Alliance, we have, you name it. We've been very fortunate to build community issues that needed to be addressed and becoming more politically involved. We were able to establish credibility with the city level and the county or the state, and in some cases, national. More and more doors were opened. We found out that by pulling ourselves together into a coalition, much more could be done (rather than) individual agency (effort).

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Please tell me about that, because now, today we have an organization called Minority Executive Directors Coalition of King County...

TI: Yes.

AI: ...and it's well-known as an organization that's very multicultural and multiracial. But can you tell me about the time before that existed...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...and then how it came to be organized?

TI: This (was) a time of "Reaganomics," President Reagan was cutting back on social services, so-called "Reaganomics." And I felt all our minority agencies would be suffering and that we needed to get together. So I initiated initially (bringing together) twelve minority executives together. And after discussing it thoroughly, I suggested two options -- one is we continue our to-each-his-own and cutthroat each other to get the limited resources. Or the other option is learn how to trust each other to get more resources (through coalitional efforts). Overwhelmingly they were open to this coalition effort. And in another study I was involved in, covered the United States and found the Minority Executive Directors Coalition of King County is one of the most effective coalition, minority coalition in the United States. And many of these bigger cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City have tremendous, large-sized Asian American communities. But they're handicapped in a sense they're so big, that they felt they could handle issues on their own. And as a result, these cities (did not succeed in getting financial support for Asian programs), compared to the kinds of agencies that we have in Seattle. They just couldn't compete. We were much better. These big cities were so big, whether they're Japanese community or Chinese community or any community, they just couldn't bridge that wall of differences and find a common ground that existed.

AI: What was the common ground that existed that brought people together?

TI: Well, we're all minorities. We felt powerless. We had no influence. And so we agreed that everything we'd do, we'd do it together. I mean, one of each color was always in on every negotiation. (Among other efforts), we set up a process where every quarter we met with the secretary of DSHS...

AI: Department of Social and Health Services for Washington State.

TI: ...and give the director feedback on how well the services were being done or not done. And one of the ones we raised was for the elderly. There were no real effort to involve and give food that was needed for (elderly) Asian Americans, let alone other minorities. So the director of the state office on aging was called in to explain why not. And they said the arrangement was that each region (had) a regional disbursing system. Senior Services Center was the one in this region. And meeting with that director, he felt he made efforts to involve (minority elderly) in their feeding program, they couldn't do it. So we said, "Okay. We have a solution. You set up a contract with Bush Asia Center, Langston Hughes, United Indians of All Tribes, and El Centro de la Raza, who will cover the four major minority (elderly) groups, and let them dispense, provide this food to the likings of that particular ethnic group." So they said, "Okay." Another need we saw was Variety Club at that time had no buses going to minority agencies. So the director, president agreed that there was a need. So he'll start giving one new car a year. And we told him that, that's not right. We're so far behind, you've got to give several buses every year. And as a result today, we have buses all over the place at all these minority agencies.

AI: Now, a little bit earlier, you said that you felt it was important to have one of each color...

TI: Yeah.

AI: ...the four main colors. And could you tell me a little about why that was so important and what you meant by that, one of each color?

TI: Yeah. Usually the white system pits one minority group against another. But when you have one Asian American, one African American group, one Chicano group, one Native American group all together in the same room and we're all saying the same thing together, it's harder for the system to reject it. And we found we were more successful doing it that way. And gradually, it built confidence that it's working. [Laughs] Intimidating people is great if you're united. So that's what we did. And...

AI: Well, when you were first using that approach, the united approach, what kind of reaction did you get from -- you were describing this reaction about the senior food and feeding programs.

TI: Yeah.

AI: It sounds like in the end that turned out very well.

TI: Yeah.

AI: But in the beginning of that, what kind of reaction did you get when you were facing these people?

TI: There was a common agreement among members of the coalition who were concerned about elderly needs. And I guess they believed that working together would have better results. As a result, we continued to experience the same positive experience. Whereas vocational rehab, or issues, or in the community college not being (fully) accessible (we joined) a strike or a sit-in on, in the administrative offices of Seattle Central Community College. And I remember Al Sugiyama was part of that (confrontation), and we used to have yellow sheets of paper, and just ran off a lot of them and stuck them all over the place in the office. Show some symbol, (was important). It was real, so from that came an advisory group to the chancellor, to gain access to the system. (The next issue was) Head Start access was limited to minority groups, so we protested that. So we got more money for Head Start for all the minority groups. There were plenty of targets to shoot for, and the more we did it, the more successful we became. We felt the newspaper needed to have a minority point of view. So the Seattle Times agreed that every Saturday have a column. So we had a number of us writing pretty good-sized amount of words about their concerns. And the Times' owner was supportive of that. So after a while, it ran out because there weren't enough people skilled in writing that wanted to volunteer their writing skills to the newspaper, but it worked for quite a while.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Well, I want to ask you also to say a little bit about the larger society here, because when you explain that having people of color or racial minority people authoring articles that ran in the major daily newspaper...

TI: Yeah.

AI: that time, were there any columnists who were people of color...

TI: No.

AI: ...regular columnists or major reporters or editors who were people of color at the newspaper?

TI: No. That didn't exist. This is why we protested and came up with a compromise idea, initially anyway. And today, of course, it's changed. The doors have opened up quite a bit.

AI: And likewise within the Seattle Community College administration or within the administration of health services or mental health services, were there upper-level administrators who were people of color at that time?

TI: There were some. Lyle Kasim was the head of Division of Mental Health for a period of time. So symbolically, he was the enemy that we approached and criticized and demanded. But we had unusual relationship. Once a year at least we have a party at his house, Lyle Kasim's house, and we built real nice relationship -- potluck and, and I used to organize the games, so it was just a fun time together. But having that kind of unusual relationship opened up funding for the ethnic minority mental health consortium, another coalition effort as a focus on mental health. It was a real trying time as far as having your foot all over the place on community-wide issues, and at the agency, focusing in more narrowly on kids that were in trouble. It worked out, and I felt it was very appropriate for the agency to be active participants, involved. And so it was hard for me to, after thirty years completion, I felt I would give myself three more years. And I said that would be end. (Completing) thirty-three years. It was exhausting, but I still enjoyed it. And so I feel very blessed with the opportunities that came about, that I could be involved.

AI: Thank you.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.