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-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Well, I did want to ask about one incident, and I think, May, that you may have written about it or may have been interviewed in the past and mentioned about the flag salute in school.

TY: About the what?

AI: The flag salute. The pledge of allegiance to the flag.

MY: Oh, yeah. I, you know, thing, the difference between my brothers and I -- well, my three brothers, my two older brothers and Joe -- was that my mother was very aware of the fact that I was not an, an American citizen and I was not -- but that I was not eligible to become an American citizen. And so she was very much aware that I should keep up with Japanese culture just in case, you know. And so she, and so when, when I talked back or I was smart or something like that, she would say that, "You're Nihonjin ware dakara." You know, "Since you were born in Japan, you're not supposed to talk like that, or you should, Nihonjin no kuse ni. Nihonjin no kuse ni. The fact that you're Japanese. You're becoming a little bit too arrogant," and you know, that kind of comments that would -- I remember that, it quite, quite well. And I thought that -- and also because I was the only girl in the family and, and the, so the, both the race -- the nationality and the, the sexism within the family, you know, my brothers were boys, and so they could go out and do what they wanted to play. But then you're a girl, so you can't do such and such. And they're American citi-, they're American citizen. Besides, they're boys, you know, like the two went together. And I used to think that was very strange. So then when I went to school and we had to salute the flag -- and I remember thinking, I was kind of listening to the words and thinking, I wonder if I should be doing -- you know, I'm, after all, I'm Nihon ware. You know, I was born in Japan, and I'm not an American citizen. But, and it used to -- it didn't worry me. I, it was just kind of curious, you know. I, I felt a little bit --

TY: Oh, I didn't know that.

MY: Yeah, yeah. It was --

TY: That's interesting.

MY: But Mom always told me, you know, You're Ja-, and that was why I had to go and take, you know, go and take odori and --

TY: I did recall that when we did things, a lot of times we did, we did things -- Mike and I did things, but you, you were never there.

MY: I know.

TY: Oh.

MY: The, the other thing was I was very physically weak.

TY: Hmm.

MY: And that in addition to the fact that -- because I almost died, and Dr. Thompson said, you know, that she shouldn't expose me to any germs, outside. So --

TY: And, and sun.

MY: Yeah, and the sun. Yeah. So any time that there was a epidemic of any kind like the measle-, they used to have measles epidemic. And they used to put those signs up on the front, call it Scarlet Fev-, I mean --

TY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JY: You have measles and --

MY: When you had mumps.

TY: You mean quarantine signs?

MY: Quarantine signs on the outside. And, and as soon as that happened, Mom kept me home from school, you know, when the people in the neighborhood were --

TY: Is that right?

MY: Yeah.

TY: Oh gee, I don't remember that.

MY: So I missed school a lot when I was in elementary school 'cause she, she was afraid that if I got sick again, you know --

TY: Well, I'll be darned. No, I don't remember that.

MY: And so if there was any kind of an epidemic, you know, a flu or anything like that, she felt that she had to keep me home.

TY: Well, I know she protected you.

MY: I know. I was like a hothouse plant.

TY: Yeah.

MY: They, they thought that, that I shouldn't be exposed to any germs. And so when you guys were taken out to different public places, I didn't get to go.

AI: What kind of places would you and Mike be taken to?

TY: Oh, boy.

MY: Judo, you used to do --

TY: Oh, we used to do judo, we did kendo, and all that kind of thing.

MY: Tournaments.

TY: And we were looking at an old -- it just occurred to me now about last night. We were looking at a, some of the movies that Dad had made when we were kids and what few we had left, May had it put on videotape. And so we hadn't seen them for a while, so we put it on last night just to review it. And I noticed that that ship -- that picture on the naval ship? You weren't there.

MY: No. I was not, I wasn't in any of those.

TY: Yeah, you weren't, you weren't there. Just Mike and I were, were in, and, you know, we were small yet, and we were wearing, wearing knickers and --

AI: Can you explain more about these, these events where the naval ships would come --

TY: Well, to be very honest, I don't remember. The only reason I remember is because we saw it in the, in that little --

JY: Well, it goes, I'm sure it was because Dad worked on the ships. You know, he was an interpreter.

TY: Well, Dad was a very --

JY: So he would take them to the ships with them.

TY: No, she -- no, well --

MY: He knew the captain.

TY: -- he was a very prominent in, in the Japanese community when, and he was active in the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and stuff. And when, during Potlatch -- it's just like Seafair now. They used to call it Potlatch. And during the Potlatch season for a week, that summer, a Japanese training ship would come. And almost annually they'd come and almost annually -- annually we'll have these training ship officers at our house for dinner, and we'd take -- Dad would take them to Mount Rainier on a tour or Mount Baker or, and Mike and I always, and I would always go along. But May never went. And that, I remember. You know, you were nev-, you were never there --

MY: Yeah, I remember that, too, yeah.

TY: -- included, included in the group, yeah.

MY: Yeah.

TY: Which is kind of interesting come -- looking back now, I, I just didn't ever, I never thought of it before, but looking back I think --

MY: You mean you never about the fact that I was left behind all the time? [Laughs]

TY: No, I never thought much of you. I'm sorry. [Laugh]

JY: Did you re-, did you resent it?

MY: Yeah.

JY: You remember? Do you?

MY: Yeah, of course. [Laughs]

TY: Well, you spoke to me after I got back home. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.