Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsuye May Yamada - Joe Yasutake - Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrators: Mitsuye May Yamada, Joe Yasutake, Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Jeni Yamada (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 8 & 9, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ymitsuye_g-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Okay. So we are continuing on with our interview here with the Yasutake and Yamada families. And right before our break we were still at, at the point of young childhood of Tosh and May, and Joe was not yet born yet at this period. So I wanted to ask if you had any other young childhood memories of that time when you're first starting out in Pacific School, the elementary school years. Any memories of first realizing that you as Japanese Americans are different from the white kids at school or, that you may see in the neighborhood.

MY: Well, frankly I do not remember any white kids in the school, in Pacific School. Do you?

TY: Well, one incident I think was when we, was in watching Mike's tape --

MY: Uh-huh.

TY: -- and, you know, about the ex-, about this nose --

MY: Yeah.

TY: -- and all.

MY: But the teachers were all white.

JY: The teacher -- and -- you know, and so they asked my older brother when, after he came -- when he came back from Japan and he started going to grammar school, well, his, you know how these young kids, when they have their cold or something, nose just dribbles down. Well, he was always going [makes sniffing sound], and so the teacher wanted to ask him to wipe his nose. So apparently the teacher asked one of the Niseis --

MY: How do you say --

TY: -- kids, "How do you say, you know, blow your nose?" And there was a, what was -- hana --

MY: Hana?

TY: Hana fuki nasai, right?

MY: Yeah.

TY: So they told her to say, "Hana fuki nasai." So every so often, well, he'd tell my brother, "Hana fuki nasai." Well, I think that might, kind of gave me a clue about, that we're no -- we're, we're a little bit different. But --

MY: Yeah. But I think the teachers were all white.

TY: Yeah. Every one --

MY: And that -- I remember that very distinctly.

JY: And all the students were Japanese? Or minority...

TY: Well, I'd say that the, in that area there was a lot, awful lot of Japanese living there.

JY: Huh.

TY: And I'd say maybe a third?

JY: Hmm.

TY: About 33 percent or something were, were Asians.

MY: Yeah.

TY: So --

MY: Japanese Americans.

TY: Japanese, mostly Japanese, yeah.

MY: And Mike often talked about, he was put in first grade when he was, he was seven, and that he felt very alienated from the Nisei kids as well because he didn't speak any Japanese and they didn't want to talk to him. And so that, I was interested in, in the teacher using his classmates to --

TY: Yeah, yeah.

MY: -- to tell him something. But we went -- we were very much aware of the fact that the teachers were white and, and that, it's kind of interesting because I don't remember that there were any --

TY: Yeah, among Niseis, I suppose we spoke mostly, all, all English. I don't think we spoke any Japanese, as I remember, among kids anyway. So I really, wasn't really conscious of the fact that --

MY: Yeah. But we were talking last night about our mother's, had -- you know, she, she had suffered through rather serious illnesses -- Mike's illness and his and mine. And so she became kind of a health nut. And she, any kind of a health fad that came along, she would kind of grasp at it and, and that -- you know, there, there was this one -- this incident with the garlic.

TY: Yeah.

MY: She was feeding us garlic. Fresh garlic -- fresh, grated garlic.

TY: This was still, this was still, we were still going to Pacific School?

MY: Uh-huh. Yeah. We were in Pacific School. And so, and so I mean, I think that with this garlic incident I guess we were smelling pretty bad because she took a clove of garlic and she grated it with that Japanese daikoroshi thing, you know, and grated it. And, and she had this edible paper that, that looked like cellophane paper.

TY: It's a very round paper, so... and very thin.

MY: That they have in apothecaries.

TY: Yeah.

MY: And she put the fresh grated garlic in the, this thing, and she made us swallow it with water. And so -- all three of us. And so we must have smelled terrible, you know. I mean, it probably was coming out of our pores.

TY: Just reeking. Reeking with garlic. [Laughs]

MY: And so when we got to school, the teach-, I guess the teacher thought that was some kind of a weird Japanese --

TY: Yeah, because of the incident, I really name -- remember the teacher's name. Her name was Ms. Beechler. And I can't forget -- I'll never forget her name. [Laughs]

MY: I knew it started with a B, but --

TY: Yeah.

MY: I kind of forgot. And so anyway, she took it -- dragged the two of us out of the classroom to take us to the principal to complain that we smelled bad. And then she, not only didn't she stop with that. She went to Mike's class and dragged him out of the class, and all three of us had to march to the principal's office and, and then, of course, after that Mom was told about it. And she stopped feeding us garlic. But she, Mike's -- you know, Seiichi -- Mike said that when he went back to the classroom -- oh, that you said that the principal said... what did he --

TY: Yeah, what -- I think principal was trying to negotiate the problem with telling the teacher, well -- he says, "Wouldn't be all right if they have it only on the weekends?" And she says, "No." [Laughs]

MY: They're going to smell bad when came they come back on Monday. [Laughs] And so then Mike said when he got back to his classroom, the teacher took him aside and told him, you know, "In my class it's all right. You could tell your mom that it was okay." So she was somewhat sympathetic. But there was, she, my mother had read that -- you know, Mom had read this, read about the, how therapeutic garlic was and --

TY: And then good for your brain, you know --

MY: Yeah, it was good for your brain and it's good for your --

JY: As it turns out, it's all true, you know?

TY: Yeah, that's right.

JY: Nowadays they have Garlique and all that kind of stuff.

TY: That's a good home remedy.

MY: So she, and so she, that was what she was doing with that. And, and she was very much aware of, of a good diet and, and all the -- they're talking about the juices that she made us drink and, and things like that.

TY: Yeah, well, she also read someplace that beef blood is really good for you. So she would buy --

MY: Steak, yeah.

TY: -- beef, and then she'd cook it just, just singe it. And then she got this terrycloth thing, as I remember, and she put it on, on the meat and then she'd squeeze it, the blood out of it.

MY: Put it in a cup, yeah.

TY: And made us drink, made us drink that. And I really enjoyed that, though, actually. It tasted pretty good. [Laughs]

MY: Eew.

TY: The garlic and olive oil and all the other stuff we, were sometimes forced down our throat wasn't very good, but --

JY: That was, that wasn't an ethnic thing, though. That was just Mom and her health kick, really.

MY: Kick, yeah. But I think the teacher thought --

JY: That it was something ethnic, yeah.

MY: -- that this garlic was some kind of ethnic, weird ritual or something that made us smell bad.

TY: Yeah, that's right. That's right. [Laughs]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.