Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrator: Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 14, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ytosh-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Okay. Well, today's November 14, 2002, and we're conducting an individual interview with William Toshio Yasutake, and Tosh, thanks very much for being here with us. I'm Alice Ito with Densho, co-interviewing with Tom Ikeda and Dana Hoshide on videography. And, as we all know, we had a group interview session with you, your brother Joe, and sister, Mitsuye May, earlier, about a month ago, and now we're continuing on. So even though we had covered some of your initial childhood and family background in the earlier group interview, I'd like to back up and just do a little bit of review for the purposes of the starting off this interview and mentioning that your parents were Jack Kaichiro and Hide Yasutake and that they were married in January of 1918 and that you have an older brother, Seiichi Mike, who was born in 1920, and then you, yourself were born in 1922. And, what's your birthday again?

TY: My birthday's June 10, 1922.

AI: Right.

TY: Yeah.

TY: In Seatt-, born in Seattle. And when I, I was... I wasn't born in a hospital, I was born at home. And Mrs. Shimomura was a midwife. I think she was pretty well-known in Seattle at that time as a midwife and she's the one that delivered me. And noticed, one of grandson has a, is a photo-, is a painter and he did some painting of her and I think he had an exhibit in Bellevue Art --

TI: Right. He took, he took her diary entries and created art paintings.

TY: Yeah.

TI: That's Roger Shimomura, the artist, and that was his grandmother.

TY: It was really interesting piece of work, I thought.

TI: Yeah.

AI: And then, we also had mentioned in the earlier interview that not too long after you were born, then your mother also became pregnant again with your sister, Mitsuye May, and decided for some health reasons to go back to Japan, and taking you as an infant and your brother Mike to Japan. And while there, Mitsuye May was born, but also at that time you as an infant got very sick and that your mother decided that she would --

TY: Yeah, while we were in Japan I got quite sick. And I'm not too sure about how old I was then, but you might be correct here. I might have been nine or ten months old then. And she decided to bring me back by myself because I was a handful then, I guess. And so May and Mike was left in Japan and my mother brought me home. And I must have been ill for another year or two because... and I heard this from May actually -- I never, Mother never told me about it. And so I have to take May's word for it, that I did have encephalitis and according to this note, I was kinda surprised to see that May had told you that there was an epidemic at that time, of encephalitis, and I hadn't heard that. I had intended to call May and find out about that, but I didn't. That was kind of interesting, I thought. May also mentioned that one of the Issei lady friend of Mother's mentioned to May that she remembers when she came to visit our house, that my head was so swollen that I had difficulty keeping it up. And I'm -- couple years ago, in fact, I asked -- no, about two, three years before my mother passed away, I asked her what it was that I really had, specifically had, that caused the encephalitis because that can be caused by viral or bacterial infection and she really didn't know. And I would have liked to know. Even to this day I do have a big head, so I have, wear size large hats. [Laughs] And I always had had a big head. And that must have been a result of my illness, I guess. But I think, I feel very fortunate I ended up the way I did. 'Cause I could have been seriously, damaged my brain, I think. Become very serious, so...

AI: Well, so fortunately you did recover.

TY: Yes.

AI: And then eventually both May and Mike returned to the United States and you grew up together on Beacon Hill and eventually you had a much younger brother, Joe was born in 1933.

TY: Actually, he was born in '32.

AI: Oh, '32. I'm sorry.

TY: He's ten years younger than I am so, yeah.

AI: That's right. Ten years younger. And you all moved to your larger family home on Massachusetts Street.

TY: On Beacon Hill. Yes.

AI: And just a couple other significant years in your childhood, that you graduated from your eighth grade Beacon Hill School in 1937 and went on to Cleveland High School also on Beacon Hill and graduated there in 1941.

TY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.